Jesus, they named you

* This hymn celebrates the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. It extemporizes on the verse … far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come.  When I had completed the lyric, it sang itself to BUNESSAN. Yet  that didn’t quite work, because that tune asks for words of lighter texture than those I had chosen. So I slowed the music down, to give more space for thoughtful singing;  and, since BUNESSAN is best known to ‘Morning has broken’, I called it MORNING AMENDED.


Jesus they named you.midi


This hymn focuses less on trying to picture Christ ascended than on a sense of the difference made to life now. We sing in the hymn of Jesus present with us. Un-tamed by death, he is ‘Lord evermore’. ‘More than parochial’, he is ‘multi-focal’. ‘Sovereign Compassion poured from the heavens, neighbours and nations seek for (his) path.’ These ascriptions and descriptions lead to prayers: that we may express the offering of Jesus’ life, may be made anew, may ‘build fruitful peace between peoples’, and (as there is no limit to the glory of God), for the flourishing with Christ of ‘every creature’.

The first stanza compresses the witness of Jesus’ contemporaries, some for, and some against him.

The second particularizes his contemporaries’ witness: mis-applying Andy Warhol’s phrase, Jesus is represented as having been ‘famous for fifteen minutes’; yet now he is universal, ‘present and free’.

‘Sovereign Compassion’ is a phrase that tries to speak of God embodied, incarnated, in Jesus and in those who pray to express his ‘life’s offering’. ‘Christ…first among equals’ articulates the conviction, strongly maintained by Paul the Apostle (When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ (the) Spirit (bears) witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…Romans 8.15b-17a), that the icon of God is not only pioneer of salvation, but also our elder brother, and friend.

Once written, it was clear that the lyric fitted an anonymous Irish Gaelic tune ‘Bunessan’. Yet the words perhaps don’t completely work to that tune; for, where the melody flows onwards, asking for a lyric that flows easily with it, the words of this hymn call for some effort of pronunciation and a good deal of thought. So the melody was modified, from 9/8 to 4/4 time. By lengthening the first note of each line, space was gained for due emphasis and reflection. It also made sung harmonization possible, which can enable more expressive singing of the hymn.


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