This Holy Covenant Was made

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This text reminds us initially of the Mosaic covenant with God’s Old Testament people: the Exodus and wilderness wandering (st. 1). God’s covenant with his New Testament people is focused in the Lord’s Supper (st. 2) and sealed by the work of the Holy Spirit (st. 3). At times cryptic in its biblical allusions, this hymn text calls not only for singing but also for further study of the meaning of these Scriptural references and preaching on the Mosaic covenant and God’s new covenant – now not written on stone but “on the minds and hearts of his people.”

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Stanza 2 speaks of the upper room where Christ and the disciples were gathered around the table. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 28, Question and Answer 77 includes these words of institution from this occasion as the foundation for the sacrament.


In baptism, our identity is established and we are “set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may wholly belong to [Christ] whose mark and sign we bear” (Belgic Confession, Article 34). Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 26, Question and Answer 70 assures us that “to be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed and sanctified us to be members of Christ…” We therefore are called “to join and unite with it [the church of Christ]” (Belgic Confession, Article 28). This union with Christ shapes our personal identity for all time.


This Holy Covenant Was made


Faithful God, maker and keeper of promises, you hold out blessing to us if only we will take it with willing hands.
But our hands reach elsewhere.
You show us covenant riches of many facets if only we will see them with willing eyes.
But our eyes look elsewhere.
You speak covenant solace to us if only we will listen with willing ears.
But our ears listen elsewhere.
You make and keep your promises but we are too often elsewhere.
So we confess our sin and seek your gracious forgiveness
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Additional Prayers

We have put on Christ.
In him we have been baptized.
We have put on Christ.
So we are clothed with compassion, kindness, and humility.
We have put on Christ.
So we are clothed with gentleness, patience, and forbearance.
We have put on Christ.
So we are clothed with forgiveness, love, and peace.
We have put on Christ.
So give us energy, gracious God, to grow into our clothes. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

This Holy Covenant Was made

Tune Information

D Major
Meter with alleluias



This Holy Covenant Was made

Hymn Story/Background

This text reminds us initially of the Mosaic covenant with God’s Old Testament people: the Exodus and wilderness wandering (st. 1). God’s covenant with his New Testament people is focused in the Lord’s Supper (st. 2) and sealed by the work of the Holy Spirit (st. 3).
In this hymn a great text is matched by an equally strong and effective tune. The tune, LASST UNS ERFREUEN derives its opening line and several other melodic ideas from GENEVAN 68. The tune was first published with the Easter text "Lasst uns erfreuen herzlich sehr" in the Jesuit hymnal Ausserlesene Catlwlische Geistliche Kirchengesiinge (Cologne, 1623). LASST UNS ERFREUEN appeared in later hymnals with variations in the "alleluia" phrases.
The setting is by Ralph Vaughan Williams; first published in The English Hymnal (1906), it has become the most popular version of LASST UNS ERFREUEN. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Sylvia Dunstan (b. 1955; d. July 25, 1993) attributes her love of song to her grandparents, who kept song alive in the family and entrusted Sylvia's formal musical education to one of the nuns at the local convent. Sylvia began writing songs in the early seventies and soon after met Sister Miriam Theresa Winter, who encouraged her to write songs based on Scripture. Sylvia eventually realized that her talents did not lay with the music and concentrated instead on the lyrics. She was further shepherded and encouraged by Alan Barthel.

Her bachelor degree was earned from York University, and she received graduate degrees in theology and divinity from Emmanuel College, Toronto. In 1980, she was ordained by the Hamilton Conference of the United Church of Canada. During her career she served as a minister, a prison chaplain, and editor of a Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering.

In the summer of 1990, she was invited to lead the annual conference of the Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada in a session exploring her hymnody. That exposure led to the publication of her texts In Search of Hope and Grace. A smaller collection Where the Promise Shines was published after her death in 1994. Many of her hymn texts have been set by contemporary composers.

Sylvia Dunstan died on July 25, 1993, almost four months after being diagnosed with liver cancer. She left behind a ministry that combined a compassionate concern for the needy and distraught with a consuming love of liturgy.
— GIA Publications, Inc. (http://www.giamusic.com)

Composer Information

Through his composing, conducting, collecting, editing, and teaching, Ralph Vaughan Williams (b. Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, October 12, 1872; d. Westminster, London, England, August 26, 1958) became the chief figure in the realm of English music and church music in the first half of the twentieth century. His education included instruction at the Royal College of Music in London and Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as additional studies in Berlin and Paris. During World War I he served in the army medical corps in France. Vaughan Williams taught music at the Royal College of Music (1920-1940), conducted the Bach Choir in London (1920-1927), and directed the Leith Hill Music Festival in Dorking (1905-1953). A major influence in his life was the English folk song. A knowledgeable collector of folk songs, he was also a member of the Folksong Society and a supporter of the English Folk Dance Society. Vaughan Williams wrote various articles and books, including National Music (1935), and composed numerous arrange­ments of folk songs; many of his compositions show the impact of folk rhythms and melodic modes. His original compositions cover nearly all musical genres, from orchestral symphonies and concertos to choral works, from songs to operas, and from chamber music to music for films. Vaughan Williams's church music includes anthems; choral-orchestral works, such as Magnificat (1932), Dona Nobis Pacem (1936), and Hodie (1953); and hymn tune settings for organ. But most important to the history of hymnody, he was music editor of the most influential British hymnal at the beginning of the twentieth century, The English Hymnal (1906), and coeditor (with Martin Shaw) of Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) and the Oxford Book of Carols (1928).
— Bert Polman
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