Word of Justice

Today’s song from Sing Praise is ‘Word of Justice’ by Bernadette Farrell.  It is one of her ‘call and response’ type songs, a style favoured by her Roman Catholic tradition. The response of the congregation to each pair of calls is ‘Alleluia!’ and ‘Maranatha!’ (the latter meaning ‘O Lord, Come!).

The calls are relevant both to yesterday’s hymn and to the Advent season.  Relevant to yesterday’s hymn because those seven sayings of Jesus from John’s Gospel are followed here by nine expressions of the Word (that Word which John tells us became flesh in Jesus).  The first eight are Word of Justice / Mercy / Power / Freedom / Healing / Comfort / Gladness / Wisdom, each with a following invocation: Come to dwell here, Live among us, Live within us, Save your people, Heal our sorrow, Bring us hope now, Fill our hearts now, Come renew us.  And finally ‘Word we long for, Word we thirst for’. 

The words are carefully crafted with a logical progression: Justice, mercy and power are in God’s nature, always held in creative tension. Freedom, healing, comfort and hope are what the Messiah was prophesied to bring. And gladness and wisdom are the fruits of him living within us. So in this alone, the song has an Advent theme to us.  This is reinforced with the last three calls which take up the titles used for Jesus in this season: Key of David, Son of Mary, Cry of Prophets, Hope of ages, Light of nations, Light in darkness. 

1 thought on “Word of Justice”

  1. Actually I wasn’t very struck with this song: Bernadette Farrell is obviously drawn to writing “liturgical songs” rather than “hymns” as such, and in my opinion her hymns are of rather better quality than her liturgical work (perhaps I mean that she writes better words than liturgists do?).

    I didn’t feel that the pairings of the phrases in the verses really worked that well, nor that they introduced the “Alleluia” and “Maranatha” very convincingly. The “Alleluia” and “Maranatha” are easy to get mixed up if one is trying to play the music as well as sing it – which to me suggests that the train of thought isn’t hugely convincing. The natural punctuation of the verses varies, with some seeming to lead into the “Maranatha” without a breath, and others seeming to require the printed full-stop before it. The verses lead from one to the next without a pause for reflection. I felt that 12 verses was far too many, although the intention may be to allow the singers / liturgists to make a choice? The last three verses, with their list of titles, seem to mark a break in the train of thought; and “Key of David” made me wonder if we were going to embark on the seven O Antiphons of Advent, but we weren’t.

    I wondered if (like Mark Earey’s Advent Candle song) Bernadette had produced a sheet of liturgical instructions to go with the hymn? I think it would have benefitted from some stage directions.

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