Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, praising thee their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
This is widely known as the Hymn to Joy. Probably the most popular hymn tune I’ve tackled this year. A tune that even my youngest piano students are familiar with and are happy to learn how to play. A tune that routinely shows up in movies and commercials. A hymn often sung, and part of a symphony regularly performed. We have Beethoven to thank for his exuberant Ode to Joy (1823) and Henry van Dyke for the poetry (1907) that together express this joy and allow us to participate in its singing.
This hymn celebrates sheer joy. It celebrates nature, love, friendship and the ability of music to lift us above all we encounter. It is a song of life – a song for living the lives we are given. So I chose to place it on Mother’s Day. What better way to celebrate our mothers than to live our lives fully. For the women that birthed us, for those that chose us, for those that raised us, for those that cared for us from afar, for those that took on the role of mentor and loved us. Their work, their tears, their struggles, their determination, their failings, their successes have all prepared us for our lives. They are a reflection of the creative power that fills our world.
All Thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, blooming meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Mother’s do not always succeed. But choosing to live joyfully, allows us the space to forgive. Joy provides a window into a kind of love that sees beyond our failings and our mistakes.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are thine.
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
This is a hymn we sing together – as children and as mothers. I suppose we are all capable of participating in the act of mothering at some point in our lives. Of providing what is needed for growth. I am once again thankful that music can remind me of this. I am hopeful that I will always choose to sing joyfully. But if I cannot, I hope I will still hear the happy chorus that does, filled with mothers, sons and daughters, and be reassured that joy exists.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, leading us with mercy’s hand.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life.
Happy Mother’s Day!