LEAven Blog


Hymns about the Transfiguration of Our Lord

An Opportunity Presents Itself    

Epiphany is upon us and very soon, the Sunday when we will celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord will be here.  In our Lutheran Service Book, there are only five hymns about this event.  On Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost we have a large selection of hymns to choose from, but on Transfiguration, not so many.  We know many Christmas hymns and carols by heart, but on “lesser” festivals we may not pay much attention to what we sing.  Transfiguration hymns present us with an opportunity to teach about this event in the life of Christ and help students learn of its significance through the hymns that we sing to commemorate it.  

Choose a Transfiguration Hymn to Study and Memorize

     To help children learn more hymns so that they can more fully appreciate their texts and enthusiastically participate in worship, here are some suggestions that can apply to Transfiguration and all other Sundays of the Church year.

  1. Ask your pastor or music director what hymns will be sung in celebration of Transfiguration (see LSB pages 413-417).
  2. Select one to study, memorize, and sing.  If your faculty is blessed with a music teacher, she/he could teach the hymn tune in choir of music class, while you teach the vocabulary, memorization, Bible story, and meaning of the hymn in age appropriate ways to your students.  Learning the Transfiguration story[1] and studying its significance is key to children being able to sing with their spirit and understanding.[2]
  3. Teach the hymn several weeks prior to Transfiguration Sunday.  Older children can easily memorize the hymn in a week or two; younger children may need more time.
  4. No matter what hymn you sing, teach its unfamiliar vocabulary.  For example, in the powerful hymn, “O Wondrous Type!  O Vision Fair” (LSB 413)[3], the following words/phrases may be confusing:  
    1. O Wondrous Type!  O Vision Fair (O = an exclamation of surprise and joy – an older spelling of “Oh!”).[4]
    1. The word “Type” is confusing.  It is an alteration of John Mason Neal’s[5] original text that reads: “A type of those bright rays on high…”[6]  It could be stated this way: “Oh!  I see a glorious sight in heaven; Jesus is even brighter than the sun!”  O Vision Fair = “I see something (Jesus) that is beautiful.”
    1. Moses & Elijah – Review the visions of God they saw.
    1. Bright array = Bright clothing.
    1. Incarnate = “God made flesh,” alive, in person, “the Incarnate Word.”
    1. Christ “deigns” to manifest = Jesus stoops down or lowers himself to show (manifest) himself to us.
    1. Sing the hymn in your school’s chapel service just prior to Transfiguration Sunday.

Hymns Are Powerful

     Hymns have power to strengthen children’s faith and increase their understanding of doctrine, Church history, music, and poetry that proclaims the Good News.  I hope you are encouraged to teach a Transfiguration hymn and all hymns to your students so they may more fully understand the wondrous messages they proclaim.

…Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…  Ephesians 5:18b-20 (ESV)

NEXT TIME: More about teaching hymns…

[1] See: Mt. 17:1–8Mk. 9:2–8Lk. 9:28–36 & 2 Peter 1:16-18.

[2] 1 Corinthians 14:15:  “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”  (ESV)  Emphasis mine.

[3] If you can’t play the piano, or if you simply want your students to listen and follow the text, here’s one of many web sites that “sing” the hymn:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhxyX-QcMBk

[4] “O” is also used before a name in direct address in prayers and poetry, e.g. “O Lord, let your servant depart in peace.”

[5] See: Humnody.org at:  https://hymnary.org/person/Neale_JM ;  https://hymnary.org/text/o_wondrous_type_o_vision_fair .

[6] Neal translated the hymn from Latin to English.  It has gone through several versions over the years.

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Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart, former Associate Dean of the College of Vocation and Ministry and Coordinator of Lutheran Teacher Education, now serves in retirement as Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. He is a nationally known teacher, author, speaker, dramatist, poet and musician. Dr. Burkart has over 200 publications including 12 books, numerous professional journal articles, book reviews, chancel dramas, Christian musicals, hymns, poems, CD recordings, films and videos.

Before coming to Concordia, St. Paul, he taught in LC-MS elementary, junior high, and secondary schools in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. He and his wife, Martha, have three grown sons (Jonathan, David and Andrew) who all are proud graduates of King of Kings Lutheran School and Concordia Academy, Roseville, MN.

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