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O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Although the ancient text acquires a modern face with the freshness of Grant's translation, the ancient and biblical images are still very much present: we sing of the Spirit as "breath" and "fire" (st. 1); as "giver and Lord of life" (st. 2); as "energy" and giver of gifts (st. 3); as source of light and love (st. 4); and as bringer of peace, fullness, and unity (st. 5). The text concludes with a fine Trinitarian doxology (st. 6).


Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Belgic Confession, Article 26 provides the foundation for all our praying: “We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor ‘Jesus Christ the righteous,’ who therefore was made human, uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty. Otherwise we would have no access.” We offer our prayers, therefore, “only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 46, Question and Answer 120 verifies this privilege when it says, “Through Christ God has become our Father, and…just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.”


O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Acclamation
Holy Spirit of God, you brood over the face of the earth. You start tongues speaking and fires glowing and winds blowing. You stab people with remorse and longing. Holy Spirit of God, burn in us now for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath

Tune Information

D Major

Musical Suggestion

The following is a way to introduce this hymn and use it meaningfully to frame the service:
  1. Opening of the service: The organ (or bell choir) plays through the hymn at the end of the prelude, followed by the choir or soloist singing stanza 1 as an opening prayer. The choir could frame (sing both before and after) stanza 1 with the Taize "Alleluia" (Lift Up Your Hearts #189).
  2. Prayer for illumination: Before Scripture and sermon, the choir could sing stanza 1 again, with the congregation continuing on stanzas 2-4.
  3. Doxology: all on stanzas 5-6.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 15)
— Emily Brink

O Holy Spirit, by Whose Breath

Hymn Story/Background

This text is based on the Latin hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus." Translated by John W. Grant in 1968 and published in the Canadian Anglican and United Hymn Book (1971). Stanley L. Osborne writes, “The vividness and freshness of its expression combined with its faithfulness to the spirit of the original text marks it as one of the finest translations ever to come out of this century” (If Such Holy Song, 246).
Although the ancient text acquires a modern face with the freshness of Grant's translation, the ancient and biblical images are still very much present: we sing of the Spirit as "breath" and "fire" (st. 1); as "giver and Lord of life" (st. 2); as "energy" and giver of gifts (st. 3); as source of light and love (st. 4); and as bringer of peace, fullness, and unity (st. 5). The text concludes with a fine Trinitarian doxology (st. 6).
PUER NOBIS is a melody from a fifteenth-century manuscript from Trier. However, the tune probably dates from an earlier time and may even have folk roots. PUER NOBIS was altered in Spangenberg's Christliches Gesangbüchlein (1568), in Petri's famous Piae Cantiones (1582), and again in Praetorius's Musae Sioniae (Part VI, 1609), which is the basis for the triple-meter version. Another form of the tune in duple meter is usually called PUER NOBIS NASCITUR. The tune name is taken from the incipit of the original Latin Christmas text, which was translated into German by the mid-sixteenth century as "Uns ist geborn ein Kindelein," and later in English as "Unto Us a Boy Is Born." 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

John Webster Grant (b. Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1919) received his education at Dalhousie University and Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ordained in the United Church of Canada in 1943, he became a Rhodes Scholar after World War II and earned a doctoral degree at Oxford. He taught church history at Union College, British Columbia, Vancouver, (1949-1959); served as editor in chief of Ryerson Press (1959-1963); and from 1963-1984 taught church history at Emmanuel College, Victoria University, Toronto. Grant served as a member of the committee that produced The Hymn Book (1971), published by the United Church and the Anglican Church. His writings include Free Churchmanship in England, 1870-1940 (1955), The Canadian Experience of Church Union (1967), The Church in the Canadian Era (1972), and Moon of Wintertime (1984).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Born into a staunchly Lutheran family, Michael Praetorius (b. Kreutzburg, Thuringia, Germany, 1571; d. Wolfenbiittel, near Brunswick, Germany, 1621) was educated at the University of Frankfort-an-der-Oder. In 1595 he began a long association with Duke Heinrich Julius of Brunswick, when he was appoint­ed court organist and later music director and secretary. The duke resided in Wolfenbüttel, and Praetorius spent much of his time at the court there, eventually establishing his own residence in Wolfenbüttel as well. When the duke died, Praetorius officially retained his position, but he spent long periods of time engaged in various musical appointments in Dresden, Magdeburg, and Halle. Praetorius produced a prodigious amount of music and music theory. His church music consists of over one thousand titles, including the sixteen-volume Musae Sionae (1605-1612), which contains Lutheran hymns in settings ranging from two voices to multiple choirs. His Syntagma Musicum (1614-1619) is a veritable encyclopedia of music and includes valuable information about the musical instruments of his time.
— Bert Polman

Alfred Fedak (b. 1953), is a well-known organist, composer, and Minister of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Capitol Hill in Albany, New York. He graduated from Hope College in 1975 with degrees in organ performance and music history. He obtained a Master’s degree in organ performance from Montclair State University, and has also studied at Westminster Choir College, Eastman School of Music, the Institute for European Studies in Vienna, and at the first Cambridge Choral Studies Seminar at Clare College, Cambridge.
As a composer, he has over 200 choral and organ works in print, and has three published anthologies of his work (Selah Publishing). In 1995, he was named a Visiting Fellow in Church Music at Episcopal Seminary of the Soutwest in Austin, Texas. He is also a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, and was awarded the AGO’s prestigious S. Lewis Elmer Award. Fedak is a Life Member of the Hymn Society, and writes for The American Organist, The Hymn, Reformed Worship, and Music and Worship. He was a member of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song that prepared Glory to God, the 2013 hymnal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
— Selah Publishing Co. (

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