Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls
Inspire (UMH 651)
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire; thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above is comfort, life, and fire of love; enable with perpetual light the dullness of our blinded sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled face with the abundance of thy grace; keep far our foes; give peace at home; where thou art guide, no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son, and thee, of both, to be but One; that through the ages all along, this, this may be our endless song:
(After last stanza) ‘Praise to thy eternal merit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’
Words: Attributed to Rhabanus Maurus, 8th-9th century; translated by John Cosin, 1627 Music: Vesperale Romanum, Mechlin, 1848; adaptation from Hymns for Church and School, 1964
1 “Rhabanus Maurus”; available from http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/m/a/u/maurus_r. htm, assessed 11 March 2015
2 Frank Colquhoun, A Hymn Companion: Insight into Three Hundred Christian Hymns (Wilton: Morehouse Barlow, 1985), 103.
3 Ibid., 104.
Picture by mbolina/Bigstock.com
We are presently in the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season and Pentecost is just around the corner. Pentecost is traditionally considered the celebration for the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and rested on those gathered in the upper room (Acts 2:1-21). The church of Christ is empowered forthwith to go out into the world to make disciples of all nations.
According to the Church Year, Pentecost Sunday is to be celebrated on 24 May 2015. As such, an introduction to a Pentecost hymn will serve as a fitting closure to the most joyous season of the church. The hymn is ‘Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire’ (UMH 651 in The United Methodist Hymnal).
Attributed to Rhabanus Maurus (776-856), a Frankish Benedictine monk who later became the archbishop of Mainz (Germany) , the original title of this 9th century Latin hymn was ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’. Although translated in a few English versions, the best-known translation came from Bishop John Cosin of Durham (1594-1672).
Cosin wrote this hymn for his daily personal devotion at 9 a.m. in commemoration of Pentecost and published it in 1627 in his Private Devotions. The hymn was later included in the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer in 1662.
The central message of the hymn reflects on the creative and energetic activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people. In the opening stanza, Cosin’s translation spoke of the Holy Spirit as the one who inspires the soul by lighting it with “celestial fire” and imparting his “sevenfold gifts” (Isaiah 11:2; Rev. 1:4). He is also the anointing Spirit whose unction is “comfort, life, and fire of love”. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit illuminates “our blinded sight”, cheers “our soiled face”, guards us from our spiritual foes and guides our future ways. The hymn ends with an ascription of praise to the Holy Trinity.
‘Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire’ is definitely an appropriate hymn to consider singing on Pentecost Sunday.
Dr Yeo Teck Beng is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.