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Hymn of the Week: ‘To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King’

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This is a perennial at many parishes on this Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King; here it is sung as the recessional at the papal Mass in Philadelphia two years ago.

Chances are, most parishes this weekend won’t hear it done quite like this! But it’s a grand, triumphant piece of music. The tune is “Ich Glob an Gott,” a German hymn from the 19th century. But the words are distinctly modern—and American.

Most may not know that this hymn is relatively new:

Written in 1941 by Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally.  We Americans have traditionally understood that God is in charge:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Abraham Lincoln ringingly set forth what this section of the Declaration means:  “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

…Father Martin B. Hellriegel in his magnificent hymn conveys this majestic conception of God and of humanity under God.

To Jesus Christ, our Sov’reign King,

Who is the world’s salvation,

All praise and homage do we bring,

And thanks and adoration.

Refrain: Christ Jesus Victor, Christ Jesus Ruler!

Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer!

2. Thy reign extend, O King benign,

To ev’ry land and nation,

For in Thy kingdom, Lord divine,

Alone we find salvation.

(Refrain)

3. To Thee and to Thy Church, great King,

We pledge our hearts’ oblation,

Until before Thy throne we sing,

In endless jubilation.

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