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Hymn of the week: “O God of Love, O King of Peace”

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The 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“O God of Love, O King of Peace” is a 19th-century hymn written by the English hymnist Sir Henry Williams Baker. Baker wrote fewer than 60 hymns in his time, but they are of such high quality that nearly all of them are still in publication. He served as Vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire, from 1851 until his death in 1877.

Sir Henry was a consummate poet. His texts are described by Hymnary.org as written with a simplicity of language, smoothness of rhythm, and earnestness of utterance. On his deathbed, his last words were the third stanza of his exquisite rendering of the 23rd Psalm, “The King of Love, my Shepherd is”:

“Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His Shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.”

“O God of Love, O King of Peace” was set to the 1854 melody QUEBEC, which Baker composed himself. This tune is also used for the hymn “Jesu, Thou joy of loving hearts!” Written in the Romantic style, it is styled as a perpetual canon, or a round, which utilizes cascading vocal lines in order to add color.

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