Word of God, come down on earth

# 633 Word of God, come down on earth

Words: Father James Quinn

Tune: Liebster Jesu

Composer: Johann Ahle

Father James Quinn, SJ (1919-2010) was one of the most important hymn writers in the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he was educated at Saint Aloysius' College and Glasgow University, joining the Society of Jesus in 1939.

Though cherished by the Roman Catholic Church, Fr. Quinn's hymns had an ecumenical influence as well. His paraphrases of the psalms and other Scriptures appear in many English-language hymnals published since 1970.

Fr. Quinn's purpose in writing hymns was to create a "catechism in song." He said, "Hymns fundamentally declare the Christian faith. They are our source book for teaching and for sermons." Hymns "are to convey the words of Christ memorably." He stated that the language of hymns should be "clear but not banal and above all simple."

"Word of God, Come Down to Earth" is a skillful commentary on John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory." Stanza one describes the presence of the Word made flesh through the metaphor of "living rain from heaven descending." "We long to hear" what the Word made flesh has to say to us.

Stanza two articulates the antithesis between the "Word eternal, throned on high" and the "Word that came from heaven to die." The stanza ends with an imperative: "speak to us" of "your love outpouring."

Stanza three, referring to Christ’s miracles, states that the "Word . . . caused blind eyes to see." Then he petitions Christ to "speak and heal our mortal blindness." The stanza also asks for our deafness to be healed and that our tongues should be loosened "to tell your kindness." Just as Christ healed others during his earthly life, Fr. Quinn asks that Christ "heal the world, by our sin broken."

The final stanza contains echoes of a Trinitarian doxology. The stanza begins with the "Father’s love," spoken by the Word, who is "one with God" (Christ). The Word also "sends us from above, God the Spirit." The final stanza closes with an unmistakable Christological reference, "Word of truth," and Eucharistic allusion "Word of Life, with one Bread feed us."