In Assembly: The CD Recording Project

The Background

Who is Bernard Huijbers? A Dutch liturgical composer, who was born in 1922, and in 1940 entered the Jesuit novitiate. In the mainstream of European liturgical renewal inspired by the great minds of the day, such as Pius Parsch in Strasbourg and Josef Jungmann in Innsbruck, he collaborated with fellow Jesuit Joseph Gelineau in France to begin composing new liturgical music for The Netherlands. With the collaboration of former student and emerging poet Huub Oosterhuis, he became The Netherlands’ foremost liturgical pioneer in developing new music and forms for the Liturgy, a decade before Vatican II. Strongly influenced by the liturgical reforms of the French Church, especially the Saint-Séverin in Paris, he experienced the dynamic of assembly singing as the formative element of Liturgy.

Huub Oosterhuis, Joseph Gelineau & Bernard Huijbers

Discarding Sacred and Popular Hymns, he regarded these as no longer being appropriate for singing the Liturgy. The work he was doing with that of his Dutch and other European colleagues was to lead to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. He was effortless in his analysis of the distinction between singing during the liturgy and singing the liturgy itself. But due to being Dutch, whose language was not mainstream European, he never gained the recognition given to Gelineau, yet in many ways outshone him, as Gelineau himself testified on his first visit to Amsterdam.

Since Gelineau, Huijbers, Deiss, were not transitional but foundational, the importance of ritual music can never be underestimated. Yet in the aftermath of Vatican II, the Church has been inundated by songs and hymns which bear little resemblance to the music proposed by the Council. The Constitution on the Liturgy # 30 calls for acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons and at the end of the list, songs. In the immediate post-conciliar years, in the UK I was involved with the experimental St. Thomas More Centre for Pastoral Liturgy, whereas parish music and liturgy director, I was also a member of both the Center’s workshop team and the emergent composers forum. I was able to introduce Huijbers’ ritual songs both in weekly liturgies and programs around the country. Working alongside Bill Tamblyn, Paul Inwood, Bernadette Farrell, James Walsh, and Christopher Walker, we all met on a three-monthly basis to critique one another’s work and to explore new liturgical music forms which gave voice to ritual music. As we were not influenced by the requirements of the publishers, we were free to delve into Huijbers’ as laid out in his 1969 Door Podium en zaal tegelijk, published in English as The Performing Audience in 1974. In America, Huijbers was having his own direct personal influence there, through his teaching at Loyola, Baltimore, and his collaboration with Bob Albright at St Matthew’s parish and in Newman Centers around the country. Bob Albright continues this tradition beyond campus ministry of the Newman Center, Towson University, into his retirement church community which meets at his house, TCTMAYH (The Church That Meets At Your House) in Middle River, MD.

Huijbers initially gained traction in the UK in the late 1960s due to the publisher Burns & Oates, which fed into Herder & Herder in the States. There, his music was taken up by World Library Of Sacred Music (WLSM) in Cincinnati and North American Liturgy Resources (NALR) in Phoenix. But popular tastes after Vatican II were shifting rapidly, always seeking the new, drifting further from Vatican II. I’d first met Huijbers in 1968, forming Jabulani Music to publish the fresh translations of his work we were making jointly. Jabulani offered these to Oregon Catholic Press, who had acquired the rights to the original NALR collection in the 1990s, but this new round of publishing languished by the end of the decade. Huijbers’ challenge excites because it is based on a thriving Amsterdam ecclesiology. My translation work is still on-going, refined by the advice from colleagues in the Netherlands, the UK and in Baltimore. Its genius is that it is the voice of the entire assembly, choir, cantors, instrumentalists, people, and clergy – singing as one voice in Assembly Together.

Huijbers and Oosterhuis have embraced the liturgical challenges of Vatican II’s theology of People of God, taking their mandate from 2 Peter 2:9 about the priesthood of all the baptized. In The performing Audience, Huijbers’ analysis of history noted the practice of the Early Church, where local communities celebrated as Jesus had. But the 4th Century saw the emergence of clericalism, with Constantine diminishing the ministry of the baptized by imposing a sacral priesthood modeled on his Roman Court. Vatican II’s reforming vision was to stress the priesthood of the laity, yet a sacred caste still prevails to this day, in contrast to the Apostolic Church and its pristine condition as disciples of Jesus. Among those early communities of Jesus, women played a key role akin to a priestly ministry. For 4 centuries, worship belonged to the people, who were responsible for empowering their own leaders of worship. Huijbers was striving to restore this.

The Recording Project

But how did he do so through in music? This recording demonstrates his craft of shaping ritual song. My challenge is to music directors looking for songs for their liturgies, and to composers to learn from his craft of shaping ritual songs rather than producing endless streams of self-regarding exercises. In his book, he identified four categories of ritual song, which I have chosen as examples.


Gelineau was a pioneer in restoring the psalm as the song of the people in their Liturgy. Deiss took this idea further by writing open-form songs culled from the Scriptures, inspired by the practice of the Church before Ambrose and his strophic hymn forms emerged. No longer biblical, these tended to be doctrinal in content. Huijbers, with Oosterhuis, went further by developing his praxis of ritual song and literary form essential for singing the liturgy. He likewise prioritized psalms as the most important songs of worship. These had been the songs of Jesus. But he looked to take their musical and textual forms much further than Gelineau had in his model of response-psalm verse-response. He did imaginative things with the responses, often subdividing them into sections within psalm verses to further involve the assembly. The examples chosen here are of differing forms, whose texts were much closer to the original texts than had been the chanting of metrical psalms.

The Earth Is From God from Psalm 24 is a processional gathering psalm with 3 melodic formulas. The first is sung by the choir men on verse 1 and the women on verse 3. The second is sung by the entire assembly on verses 2, 4, 6, and 8. The third us sung by unison choir on verses 5 and 7. Originally, this psalm was a Jewish Enthronement Song, but in the editorial process required by the Exile for synagogue non-cultic worship, it lost all of its dynamism, accounting for the form handed down to us today. In this redacted form, it was an integral part of the late harvest Feast of Tabernacles, describing the three stages of the rite: the pilgrims gathering outside the City in their makeshift tents singing psalms of praise; then being called to climb Mt. Zion, where they were confronted by the Temple gatekeeper determining their worthiness in terms of Covenant fidelity before allowing them to enter the Temple courts; finally, on finding the Temple doors barred, they demanded of the priestly choir the right to enter, since with them was the God of Glory! This makes for a dramatic entrance song, and Oosterhuis revised an earlier text to not honor the King of Glory but the God of Justice.

When Israel Made Her Way From Egypt is a dialogue song from Psalm 114, between alternating sides of the assembly, ending with a two-voice canon. Celebrating the escape from Egyptian captivity and their safe passage through the seabed to dry land, they rejoiced in the freedom which lay ahead of them. The oscillation of voices in this song of one simple melodic phrase, emulates the actions of the waves, as the verses sway from side to side. Already, the excitement, the anticipation of a mountain top experience and eventual arrival in the land of promise, is present in the singers’ rapturous recounting of the story, which was obviously written in hindsight. This is a synesthetic experience that lifts the story off the pages of the reading of Exodus 15 into a dance and dramatic response of the singers, who have interiorized the text in ways transcending proclamation alone. Sung during the Easter Vigil, this experience of Exodus is tangible and visceral in ways that transcend the words.

Not To Us Comes The Glory is from Psalm 115. It is a companion psalm to the above, celebrating other aspects of the delights of the Exodus. To this end, it was set as a bolero. It likewise is based on a common melodic formula, but the dynamics are different. There are four verses, each consisting of three tropes. The first is sung by a male or female voice, the second by the unison choir, and the third as a common refrain by the assembly. At the end, the common refrain is sung many times, as in a bolero. The mantra throughout is For on you can we depend for mercy and love, God here among us.


Whereas Gelineau is known mainly for his psalms and Deiss for his acclamatory songs, Huijbers made fuller use of the song form. He identified two kinds of song, open-form and closed-form. The latter he regarded as having limited value in worship, whereas the former was essential for bringing liturgy to life. The closed form song consists only of verses, whose meaning is locked into the parameters of the stanzaic flow. Even with the addition of refrains, they contain their own meaning and are incapable of adding to or being influenced by the rite being celebrated. The openform song is not a self-contained strophic entity but consists of open tropes, phrases drawn exclusively from the Scriptures. These involve dialogue, the language of Covenant, between the lead singers and the assembly. A particular open-form song which may be sung at the gathering, should it be chosen as a response to the Word or as a preparation for the Eucharist, each time it would have a different meaning or sense, framed by the occasion which it embodied.

Open-form Songs

This Is The Day is a composite song as the gathering rite for the Christmas Vigil. It embodies the gathering, a penitential rite, and a post-Gospel acclamation. There are 3 verses, interspersed by 4 acclamations, each one using a common melodic formula but an evolving text. The verses are in the form of a 4-voice choral recitative, whose texts are taken from three biblical sources of the night’s
liturgy, Psalm 118, Psalm 2, Psalm 110, and Isaiah 11:9. After the fourth refrain, the assembly sings a fifth refrain over which the choir sing as descants Kyrie Eleis, thus embodying the penitential rite. As we shall see shortly, this continues through the Gospel, whose ending canon embodies the Gloria.

How Faithful, Now Appearing is a selection of verses from the John Prologue, summarizing the entire content of the Gospel as mediated through his Beloved Disciple community. In the Roman Rite, it is scheduled as the Gospel for the late
Christmas morning Liturgy, the first two having retold the story of Nativity from Luke. This song is equally appropriate for the Epiphany. A unison refrain is sung throughout. It is sung twice at the beginning and the end, but after verses 1 and 2, it is sung only once, with the last phrase being repeated. Verse 1 is sung by the men of the choir, verse 2 by the women, and verse 3 by both. The upper voices of the choir also sing a 3-voice vocalization as a refrain descant. Its open form acclamatory song embraces the assembly while embodying both the season and the specific ritual occasion in which it is sung. Engaging the assembly in dialogue, it also evangelizes the people through the troped settings of Gospel texts.

Living Everywhere
is a strophic song in three verses. But it is not closed-form because it divides the assembly into two sections. The women sing the first verse, the men the second and everyone the third. But then the entire piece is sung a second time, now with the women singing all three verses while the men enter later to form a 2-voice canon. This is a wedding song, whose ritual value is apparent when it celebrates the happiness of the couple whose journey lies ahead, and the fact that two people need one another for completion.

Awake You Who Sleep is another composite song. Its refrain is sung twice each time, but after verses 1, 2, 3 and 5 it is sung as an assembly 2-voice canon. Verses 1 and 2 are recitatives for men’s voices, verses 3, 4 and 5 are litanies, sung in 4-voice harmony with the assembly echoing what they have just heard. The refrain is Ephesians 5:14, the two recitative verses from Isaiah 59:9 and 60:1, and the remaining three verses, in echo-litany form, repeat the invocation for God to be present within the gathering. This is ritual music!

Closed-form Songs

Song At The Foot Of The Mountain is Oosterhuis’ refutation of Nietzsche’s denial of God’s existence. God is so far beyond description that we could never possibly come to an understanding of the One who is not merely the source of existence but is Pure Being itself. Since nothing of existential value might be said about God, to claim that God doesn’t exist is devoid of all meaning. Huijbers intended the piece to be sung as verse 1 by the men in the assembly, verse 2 by the women, and verse 3 by both. This setting illustrates how Huijbers would choose hymn tunes with which the assembly was already familiar, to introduce the new texts of Oosterhuis. In this case, the choice of melody is from the Geneva psalm of 1543, with its 1551 third renewal. But unlike hymns from the old tradition, this is neither a theological nor devotional song. It is a biblical reflection on the God of the Mountain, obscured by cloud and beyond our grasp, while the Israelites at the foot of the mountain languished, and having lost patience with Moses, hollowed out their old and comforting idols. The song cautions us against bowing to the idols we might choose living in a consumerist society today.

Sometimes Your Light
is a border-line case. It could fall into the category of art-song, since it is resonant of Chopin or Rachmaninoff. But it may also cross the line as an open-form piece, though with no ritual connection other than seasonal. Its stanzaic form is fragmentary, but identifiable musically as being of six verses which share two themes. Verses 1 and 2 are sung first by choir and then assembly to theme A; verse 3 is for choir, theme B; verse 4 for assembly is A again; verse 5, for choir, is B, and verse 6 is sung twice by the assembly to their theme A. Although a Christmas song, it celebrates the fact that about somewhere – anywhere – at any time, a child is being born, each as a gift of light to the world. This song resonates within us since it contains important truths.

Meltwater differs somewhat from Huijbers’ usual style. It is an art-song, a lied. On the few occasions when he looked beyond Oosterhuis for texts, his style would flourish, as befitting the poetry. Here, he chose one of The Netherlands leading women poets, Ida Gerhardt, for a simple text about snow water melting, to flow from the mountains and surge through the valleys to the coastal plain, to produce a sea of green to nourish the cities there. This resonated with Huijbers’ vision of Psalm 72, dreaming of the day when the earth would be wrapped with fertility and peace for all. This is among his later songs. All sixteen fragmentary phrases are repeated by the assembly. As the stream it portrays, it too surges and flows freely without any break in continuity. Thematically, it connects with Lent, Easter, Springtime, and Justice and Ecology issues. It is ritual song. Yet it is no easy piece to play, nor to sing on first hearing. Huijbers always insisted that the quality of any good song was how it could be learned in performance without rehearsal (this rule does not apply to the choir!) and that it each time it was sung, it would mediate deeper levels of understanding.


After establishing a flourishing post-conciliar liturgy in the Ignatius Jesuit House, Huijbers felt the moral obligation to help the struggling inner city parishes come to grips with the new challenges. He subsequently left the Ignatius to work in two parish churches, helping them find their feet. He began by writing settings of the new acclamations form the Sacramentary, the Ordinary of the Mass. But it was only a matter of time before he and Oosterhuis decided that the Roman. Missal was no longer relevant to their culture and spiritual needs. One of his great loves was to write canons, to turn bland statements into meaningful song forms. As a result, he has left behind a wide span of genres, including litanies, rounds, canons, and other inventive ways of engaging, perhaps even amusing, but always delighting  the assembly.

And Yet is such a strange way to begin a song. But it is a response to, a refutation of, a psalm. The psalmist’s cry is apparently falling on deaf ears. In spite of this, the psalmist at the end defiantly states, I will cling to you, hold fast to you, whether you like it or not! The opening phrase of this canonical round is enigmatic, because the Dutch dan nog – in spite of all this, is an explosive statement coming from nowhere. It requires a reading of the psalm to make sense. But as it is highly unlikely that the psalm will be read, it makes sense to translate this as and yet, an equally forceful declaration. It could well fall into the Psalms category. Psalm 13 is a lamentation. A lament begins with the classic description of grief, followed by alienation, which fuels anger. Only a personal consultation with a temple priest-oracle helps the psalmist return with confidence to God. Huijbers has extracted this final section of conversion. After a rather plain accompaniment for the opening statement, a short interlude kicks off the canon by launching into a bossa nova, the melody working its way through ascending steps of augmented thirds, mirrored by a series of descending steps at the midway point.

The Christmas Gospel Chant from Luke in 1966 was the first of a series of Gospel incantations modeled on the ancient style of cantillation. Pitching the voice to intone Scripture is an effective way to command attentiveness. Not only do the people listen more intently, they embody the words which have just been conveyed to them in song. We have lost the artform of oral tradition, using books, printed sheets, and screens. Now is the time to turn away from all that and listen, perhaps for the first time, to what the Word has to say not at us but within us. This Gospel setting was integrated into the rite of This Is The Day, mentioned above.

Glory To God is the closing of the Christmas Gospel, And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host praising God and singing: The refrain picks up the story, Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth for all people of good will, and so integrates the assembly into the telling of the Gospel. It uses the same melody as the five refrains of This Is The Day, but now transforms the 2:4 into a 6:8 rhythm. Sung first by the choir, the assembly repeats it, and then it becomes a 2-voice canon, sung enough times for the choir voices to improvise on phrases from the refrain as progressional descants.  This is the Gloria for the night, and therefore a ritual song.

You Wait For Us is a simple acclamatory song of four phrases, which may be repeated many times to good effect. The heart of the song is make us wise to your words, to your stillness and evokes a vibrant yet gentle sense of anticipation for what is to follow. It uses a simple, Gregorian chant style of singing, in a Dorian mode, which induces peace and tranquility. There is a balance between You wait for us and We wait for you. It is a song about oneness and being attentive to one another. This is the essence of the dialogue of Covenant. The gentle arc of the music soars on the verb wait, before coming to rest on an extended melisma.

Then, From Time To Time
is from 2 Kings 2, describing Ezekiel’s fiery departure into heaven. It is a redolent song of farewell, written together with Dominican Jan Niewenhuis, for the retirement of a close friend, Wim Tepe, pastor emeritus of the Dominicus. He ascended not by fiery chariot but by an equally old and creaking elevator to the uppermost floor of the rectory. I remember Wim one day taking me on a historical ecclesiastical tour of Amsterdam when we visited Onze liefde Heer op soldat – Our Lord in the attic, a chapel from years of religious persecution in an old canal house, preserved as a tribute to antiquity. The connection is this song, written for his own ascent into his attic! The piece is a straight round, which incrementally grows into a 4-voice assembly canon. It is a powerful, reflective piece, and has known been known to evoke tears, not only in the liturgical assembly but even in the recording studio.

Not One There Is God is based on the warning by Gideon in Judges 6, against bowing down before false and self-appointed gods. The urgency of this song resonates clearly today, But none in the land forever is king, not one there is God, no one. The setting is a bombastic acclamation which becomes a 4-voice canon, to challenge our own value systems about what is the truth that calls us, or the falsehoods which allure us. It too is in a Dorian mode, but the span of the melos causes restlessness rather than peace. Such righteous anger has a valid voice in political systems that perpetuate injustice and inequality and are destructive to both the human and natural eco-structures. In connection with the appropriate Scripture readings, this is manifestly a ritual song, based on the words of the prophet.

Seven Times is another fragment that could qualify as being in the psalm category. Found in Psalm 119:164, the number seven is mentioned as the appropriate way in which to pray daily. Seven is the sacred number throughout both Old and New Testaments (which did not escape the framers of the documents of the Council of Trent in the 16th Century). Jesus referred to this as not the number of times to forgive, but seventy times seven, which in Jewish numerology represents infinity. It is an acclamatory song of two musical formulas. A is sung by the choir and repeated by the assembly; B is sung by the choir. Then A is sung again twice, first by the choir and then the assembly, The choir sings B again, with the song ending as the assembly sings A. Throughout the piece, a jaunty accompaniment for keyboard and percussion carries and sustains it from the first measure to the last.

Vast Is The World has its origins in the Christmas Gloria canon above. It was written on the occasion of the birth of his son, Tjeerd Pieter, on December 25 1970. It starts as a unison statement by the women, which is then repeated by all. The first voice continues an indefinite number of times (as befits the nature of the  song about the size of life’s journey ahead), while the second voice enters one measure later. In 6:8 tempo, the voices chase each other while any number of descants unfold. The song never seems to want to end, and it is quite appropriate for the accompanist to continue playing long after the singing has died down.

Table Prayers

In the late 1960s, both communities of the Dominicuskerk and Studentenekklessia took to heart the challenge of Vatican II for local communities to tailor their liturgies to indigenous and regional requirements. Yet the universal Roman model, albeit in their own language, had been imposed throughout Western Europe and was not a reflection of their own ambient culture. So they began creating their own eucharistic liturgies, initially in the Roman tradition of sacrificial redemption, but replacing this with a vision of Jesus as a post-Resurrection experience, a living presence among them. The One who had become immersed in the human condition at his birth is still entangled with them after his Resurrection and Ascension. No longer locked into a model of redemptive sacrifice, they chose one about a peripatetic wisdom teacher who we hear in our own times, who invites us to follow on the path of his shaping. This final genre of Huijbers’ praxis was unique. While emulating models elsewhere, he had the full weight of Josef Jungmann and the delight of Joseph Gelineau to guide him and Oosterhuis in the pioneering work they were doing. The final selection for the recording are from this body of table prayers.

Open Your Heart, as all the Amsterdam table prayers, is a trialogue among the community leader (or cantor), a choir, and the assembly. As a ritual form, Gelineau had returned to the dramatic format of Greek theater, also expressed in the Japanese artform of Noh, a tradition in which the audience interacts with the main cast and the ever-present chorus (which provides commentaries and asides). Huijbers set it in a 1960s musical style since at the time, most of The Netherlands was caught up in the music of the Beatles. He drew on the voice of popular culture as the idiom in which to embed the celebration of God-among-us.

leader Open your heart and pray with me, and may peace be with you all.
choir From of old, you speak to people in many languages, in things they see, in things unseen, searching for us in heaven, on earth.
assembly Now we bless You, since You have spoken once and for all in one of us, one born of You, before all Ages, born in the flesh, dust of the earth, Jesus of Nazareth;
leader truly a man, everyman, Adam, here in this self-same unchanging world, not fully human, groping hands, led by deaf ears, a world armed for peace, fire and light he was, living water, vine strongly growing, word as a pathway, but was laid waste and extinguished;
choir who has said: ‘I came to you, to be an ocean, that you may drink me, to become bread, seed in the ground.’
leader And that is why, for friend and stranger, for good and ill, he emptied himself; he knew and knows, at his wits’ end, to all eternity he had no choice than to be god for all people here in this world.
assembly It is to us he speaks these words: ‘this is my body, living bread; this is my blood, my soul for you: what I have done, do for each other.’
leader You, the unknown voice of the Other, eternal distance, You who became father to us in this son of people, now we bless You, now we admire You;
choir and in this bread, here in our hands, we receive, in groping faith, Your name, Your son, our own life of love and pain.
assembly Help us to see in this small sign, here, in this place, listening and singing beyond the words, that one day it will come true what we expect from you in hope and fear: that one day we will speak with you person to person, nothing remaining but seeing and silence, being for ever.
leader Open your hand and take this bread and may peace be with you all.

music & text © 1967 Bernard Huijbers, Huub Oosterhuis; trans. © 1980, 200 Tony Barr, Bill Tamblyn published by Gooi en Sticht bv. Hilversum 1967, Jabulani Music 1980, 2000

Blest Be The One is a eucharistic prayer in the tradition of the Early Church. In those days, local communities developed their own anaphoras long before centralization occurred. And like every eucharistic liturgy of those Early Days, this is not a prayer but a song. And rather than being a text of neatlyarrayed stanzaic verses, it is essentiallya catalogue of troped verses, interdependent phrases which are at the same time independent. It has been written as a berakah and takes its dynamism and meaning from the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10 on the mountain, Lk 6:20-23 in the valley). A blessing is simply a thanksgiving, wishing happiness and fullness of being on one another. Huijbers has chosen to write it as a very low key piece, with a gentle pacing appropriate to the text. The music serves the language without drawing attention to itself. He uses one common melodic formula throughout for all eleven verses, and at various points throughout provides for a choral vocalization based solely on the accompaniment figure.

The song unfolds as a litany: Blest be the One who is unseen,
blest be the One concealed from us,
blest be the Living One;
blest be all people of goodness,
blest be the merciful of heart,
blest those who protect, comfort and help each other… blest men and women in sharing this world…
blest be the one who knows right from wrong…
blest be the one who speaks openly, without shame… blest be the one who is the new man, Jesus Messiah,
Who gave himself for us,
let himself be seized, to be broken,
to be shared out from hand to hand,
to be eaten as our bread.
blest you, great or small…
blest are those refined by fear…
blest be the One who is unseen…
blest be the One concealed from us…
blest be the Living One…

You Who Know Huijbers regarded as his flagship. Throughout the 1970s, at his countless presentations, from the international Universa Laus convention in Amsterdam [1970] to the Society of Saint Gregory Summer School [1978], he presented this as a model of what they were doing in Amsterdam. In his accustomed style, it is a trialogue between leader, assembly, and choir. The song is a reflection on the human condition, which Jesus assumed at his birth, and who is still among us, entangled through the Church’s celebrations, long after his Ascension. He uses three melodic formulas throughout the piece, as an interplay between the three voices in the community:

While the script must be allowed to speak for itself, it should be noted that not only is the Institution Narrative repeated, but it is sung by the choir with assembly, and is allowed to be extended throughout the entire communion rite.  The melodies originated from traditional Dutch sources.

assembly You who know what goes on in people,
the hope and doubt,
the dullness, passion, pleasure, wavering.
leader You who discern our thoughts
and weigh each spoken word by truth,
and understand at once
the things we cannot say.
choir You test our hearts
and You are greater than our hearts.
By night and day, you keep an eye on us.
And no one ever lacks a name with you.
leader And no one falls unless your hands are open.
and no one lives who is not drawn to you.
assembly No one has ever seen You here,
nor heard you speak
throughout the universe.
Your voice has never echoed
in highest heaven
or deep in the earth’s domain.
leader And no one who has entered the land of death
ever returned to bring to us your greeting.
assembly And tied to You in love, we bear your name.
And You alone know what that means, we cannot say.
We walk through life
as though our eyes were never opened.
choir And yet sometimes we call to mind a name,
an ancient story handed down for us to hear
about a man who trembled with your power,
Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish man.
assembly In him, they said, your grace appeared among us,
your gentle faithfulness there for all to see.
For good, there came to light in him
your very presence: selfless defenseless one,
servant of people.
leader He was the way for us, the life that we could be,
a child of God, a friend,
a light, a shepherd,
one whose life belonged to others,
one whose death was not in vain or fruitless.
choir Who on his final night among the living,
took bread and broke it, and shared with his companions,
and said to them:
Take, eat, this is my body –
do this to keep alive my memory.
assembly And then he took the cup and said to them:
This is the new covenant, this is my blood,
which shall be poured out that sin may be forgiven.
As often as you drink this cup, remember me.
leader To keep his memory, therefore, now we take
this bread, and break it, for each other,
that we may realize what lies in wait for us
if we should choose to follow where he goes.
assembly If You have rescued him from the dead
if he, who lay dead and buried, lives with You,
then save us too, keep us among the living,
pull us through death now as you did for him.
And make us new.
For would you save him and not save us –
Are we not every bit as human?

Music & text © 1972  Bernard Huijbers & Huub Oosterhuis
trans. © 1980, 1987  Tony Barr with Bernard Huijbers; 1993 with Bill Tamblyn. One License. Published by G+S, OCP; Jabulani, 1520 E Saint Germain St, Apt 81, Saint Cloud, MN 56304 [JM 381]. All rights reserved.

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