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April 19, 2017

A reflection from Michael Joncas on ‘God of Might and God of Mercy’


Artwork for A reflection from Michael Joncas on ‘God of Might and God of Mercy’
 

“God of Might and God of Mercy” began as a commission from my friend, Fr. Bill Graham, as a present to his parish, St. Michael’s, in Duluth, MN. The original version (stanzas 1-3, 4a, and 5) offers the assembly a way of reflecting on how they encounter God in the various elements of Eucharistic worship: in the gathering of the baptized (stanza 1), in the Liturgy of the Word (stanza 2), in the Liturgy of the Lord’s Table (stanza 3), in the world outside of the Eucharistic liturgy (stanza 4a) and in their commission to evangelize and serve that world (stanza 5).

 

About the same time as the hymn was created, Pope Francis issued his encyclical “Laudato si’” on the care of the earth and its people. Many of us church composers were powerfully affected by that encyclical and sought to make its ideas available for worshiping assemblies in their sung prayer. Bob Hurd invited us to contribute to a project he envisioned incorporating compositions from a variety of composers in a variety of styles, all of which would further awareness and the message of “Laudato si’.” I felt that of “God of Might and God of Mercy” would fit into such a project, especially with the fourth stanza’s concern for “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth,” as Pope Francis taught.  At Bob’s invitation I wrote an alternative fourth stanza that makes the themes of “Laudato si’” even clearer.

 

I think that “God of Might and God of Mercy” best serves the liturgy as a gathering hymn, a hymn of thanksgiving after communion, or as a concluding hymn for Eucharist.  It might also serve as a thematic hymn for prayer services focused on developing Christian responses to poverty and ecological crises. In that case it would be possible to sing only stanzas 4b, 4a, and 5 in that order. I have provided both a hymnal version with keyboard accompaniment for ordinary use and a concertato version for assembly, SATB choir, brass quintet, timpani and organ for more festive occasions.

Choral Review Service

Michael Joncas’s “God of Might and God of Mercy” is included in the Spring 2017 edition of the OCP Choral Review Service. Every year, subscribers receive sheet music and recordings of more than 70 specially selected choral pieces. Whether it’s new music for your traditional or contemporary choir, settings fit for children’s voices or to inspire intercultural ensembles, OCP has the right choral series to help you unite your community in worship.

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Michael Joncas
Michael Joncas

 

Best known for popular songs like “On Eagle’s Wings” and “I Have Loved You,” Father Joncas is also a supremely gifted choral composer. For his latest project, he’s writing hymns of the day for every Sunday and holy day of the year.

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