This Sunday’s lectionary readings from Exodus 17 and John 4 suggest the theme of “living water”. There are many hymns that reflect this theme – the hymns I have chosen for Sunday are:
Jesu, thou joy of loving hearts
Come, thou fount of every blessing
I hunger and I thirst
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
All fine hymns, but the one I have picked as my hymn of the week is the opening hymn, ‘Jesu, thou joy of loving hearts’.
This is a paraphrase of a Latin hymn, or poem, which begins ‘Jesu, dulcis memoria’. It was written by Ray Palmer, who was serving as a Congregational minister in Albany, New York at the time of its publication in 1858. A renowned preacher, Revd Palmer translated a number of early hymns into English, several of which are found in modern hymnbooks, including ‘O bread to pilgrims given’ (HP 620).
Although the original poem (of 48 verses!) is traditionally ascribed to the 12th Century French abbot St Bernard of Clairvaux, modern scholarship suggests an English origin.
Reference in the third verse to tasting and drinking makes this hymn a doubly appropriate choice for Sunday, as we shall be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion. The hymn has been sung to a number of different tunes; we shall be singing it to the set tune in Hymns and Psalms, which is WAREHAM.
[Source: Companion to Hymns and Psalms]
Jesu, thou joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, thou light of men!
From the best bliss that earth imparts
we turn unfilled to thee again.
Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
thou savest those that on thee call;
to them that seek thee thou art good;
to them that find thee, all in all.
We taste thee, O thou living bread,
and long to feast upon thee still;
we drink of thee, the fountain head,
and thirst our souls from thee to fill.
Our restless spirits yearn for thee,
where’er our changeful lot is cast;
glad, when thy gracious smile we see,
blest, when our faith can hold thee fast.
O Jesus, ever with us stay;
make all our moments calm and bright;
chase the dark night of sin away,
shed o’er the world thy holy light.
12th Century, translated by Ray Palmer (1808-87)