Jèsu, joy of man’s desiring

Jésu, joy of man's desiringThis beautiful piece of music comes under the category of Classical Sacred Music and I have to admit that it’s my favourite genre by far. The lyrics celebrate the fact that our deepest joy is found in God through the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus christ.

‘My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You.’ (Isaiah 26:9)

It was derived from a chorale setting from the cantata ‘Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life’ composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Does this type of music have a place in church? I think so; this example is not dissimilar to sections of Handel’s Messiah and St Matthews Passion and the like.

It’s probably not ideal as congregational song but rather, perhaps, as a choral piece or an interlude. For me, the value of a good, well-chosen interlude is that it can focus our thoughts and quieten our hearts as we come to worship.

Jesus, joy of our desiring, holy wisdom, love most bright;
drawn by thee, our souls aspiring soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned, with the fire of life impassioned,
striving still to truth unknown, soaring, dying round thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding, hark, what peaceful music rings;
where the flock, in thee confiding, drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure; theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead thine own in the love of joys unknown.

A wee personal anecdote: In the church where I grew up, the organist was very talented and he often played a quiet interlude as people were coming in to take their seats. Usually it was a Psalm or a hymn but one day he played ‘Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring’. I was absolutely transfixed.

After the service, I made my way to the organ to ask what he had played. I was just a child, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, and this lovely gentleman took time to tell me all about it. I asked if I could ever learn it and he assured me that, with enough practice, I could. And, eventually I did and I still play it regularly.