1 Jesus, joy of our desiring,
holy wisdom, love most bright;
drawn by thee, our souls aspiring
soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
with the fire of life impassioned,
striving still to truth unknown,
soaring, dying round thy throne.
2 Through the way where hope is guiding,
hark, what peaceful music rings;
where the flock, in thee confiding,
drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead thine own
in the love of joys unknown.
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989
|First Line:||Jesu, joy of man's desiring|
|Title:||Jesus, Joy of Our Desiring|
|Author:||Martin Janus (1661)|
|Translator (attributed to):||Robert Seymour Bridges|
|Liturgical Use:||Songs of Response|
Martin Janus (or Jahn) was a German churchman who worked mainly as a music director in Silesia (an area of Prussia that is now part of Poland). His only surviving hymn is “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne,” which had nineteen stanzas. J. S. Bach used the sixth and seventeenth stanzas for the sixth and tenth movements, respectively, of his Cantata No. 147, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben,” written for the Feast of the Visitation celebrating Mary's visit to Elizabeth, which is recorded in Luke 1:39-56.
The two stanzas of this hymn were most likely written by Robert S. Bridges, and were inspired by the two stanzas from Janus's text. The theme of the text is the delight and attraction of Jesus, the Word of God, who is now in heaven.
Johann Schop, a seventeenth-century German musician, is the composer of this tune, which first appeared in Himmlischer Lieder, published by Johann Rist in 1642, with Rist's hymn “Werde munter mein Gemüte,” from which a common title of the tune comes, WERDE MUNTER. The first line of the English version of this text is another title by which this tune is known – JESU, JOY OF MAN'S DESIRING.
Many different rhythmic variations of this melody have been published, but J. S. Bach's version, used in the sixth and tenth movements of his Cantata No. 147, has become the standard. These two movements have practically identical music, and were used to end each of the two parts of the cantata. This music has become very popular at Christmas and in instrumental versions at weddings. This popularity and the largely stepwise motion of the melody make this tune a good choice for congregational singing.
This hymn may be sung at any time of year as a song of response. Its popularity in Bach's setting around Christmastime may be partly due to the cantata's theme of the Visitation of Mary, a story which is associated with Jesus's birth. Bach's arrangement, with its triplet obbligato melody, is usually the basis for special music performances of this hymn. A piano reduction of this famous setting is in “Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales,” while organ and violin accompany the choir in “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.” For an organ setting that does not mimic Bach, try the arrangements of WERDE MUNTER in “Ten Chorale Improvisations, Set 4.” or “In Communion – 40 Hymntune Meditations.”
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org