Let’s compare two semi-random stanzas of poetic hymnody:

Within the Father’s house

The Son has found His home,

And to His temple suddenly

The Lord of life has come. (Lutheran Service Book 410:1)

There is a simple set of two messages: the Son at home in His Father’s house and the Lord of Life has come, effectively to us. Of course, it is not as simple as it seems. Capitalization implies divinity in this case, allowing the simple words to add to the wordplay of the biblical text it is based upon. There is a Father’s house which is typically not considered home, yet is. The Son has two fathers, but this is apart from any of the drama associated with previous biblical examples of multiple mothers. The Lord of life has come to the temple, to earth in the flesh, and to us.

“Lord of life” appears to be poetic license. It is interesting that the creed refers to the Holy Spirit, rather than the Son, as the Lord and Giver of life. I wonder if the author had in mind Jesus as the Lord of incarnation or bodily resurrection.

That was from the nineteenth century. Our next is an old Latin hymn, perhaps written as early as the fifth century.

From God the Father, virgin-born

To us the only Son came down;

By death the font to consecrate

The faithful to regenerate. (Lutheran Service Book, 401:1)

This is some meaning-heavy text! The sentence structure is complex but clear. Every word, prepositions included, are important. The stress pattern is obvious in reading, even apart from the melody.

Both draw upon Scripture, but in different ways. One meditates on a specific passage while the other incorporates many. One speaks almost colloquially while the other has a more pronounced form or structure. One speaks in rather comfortable metaphor (father’s home), while I’m not sure Lutherans are to speak of regeneration as a metaphor. I mean, rebirth sounds like a metaphor, but we believe there is very real, literal new life given from above by the Spirit, forming an honest-to-goodness new relationship establishing parent and child.

Both have what many would consider churchy language. Both stress the incarnation and Jesus as the source of life. (Regenerate may not be a particularly common word, but it is definitely related to life.) Both reach out to others to encourage praise to the Triune God for sending the Son as our one and only Savior.

If words are flowing in one style rather than another, let’s keep writing. If you’re in love with seven words, and only seven words, and wonder if people can just endlessly sing seven words and send you royalties? Um, how about keep writing then, too, on the same piece. 😉

Both pieces have similar stress patterns. Maybe yours can to.

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Filed under As Theological Writers, Style, Theological reflection

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