Calvin Seerveld (b. 1930) was professor of aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto from 1972 until he retired in 1995. Educated at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan; the University of Michigan; and the Free University of Amsterdam (Ph.D.), he also studied at Basel University in Switzerland, the University of Rome, and the University of Heidelberg. Seerveld began his career by teaching at Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi (1958-1959), and at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois (1959-1972). A fine Christian scholar, fluent in various biblical and modern languages, he is published widely in aesthetics, biblical studies, and philosophy. His books include Take Hold of God and Pull (1966), The Gr… Go to person page >
In 1983 Calvin Seerveld (PHH 22) wrote this prayer hymn in Toronto, Canada, for use with GENEVAN 51; he revised it in 1986 for publication in the 1987 Psalter Hymnal.
The text is a modern lament, a contemporary prayer in the style of the biblical laments in the psalms. Most Old Testament laments cry to God for help in some situation of need and offer words of encouragement and trust in God's saving deeds. Much Christian hymnody is devoid of such biblical lamenting in specific time, of need and pain–the psalms clearly fill this void.
As the Psalter Hymnal indicates, gender-specific terms may be used interchangeably as appropriate to the person(s) on whose behalf this lament is raised. The intention is that two stanzas will ordinarily be sung: always the first, which recognizes sin in our lives and then a later stanza, which suits a specific situation–imprisonment (st. 2), illness (st. 3), divorce (st. 4), untimely death (st. 5), and other occasions of pain and sorrow (st. 6). Although the stanzas would not ordinarily be sung in sequence, Seerveld does provide a common refrain in the latter half of each of the "situation" stanzas.
Always sing the first stanza and one other stanza; fitting for confession of sin early in worship or as part of the congregational prayers (a spoken introduction that refers to the specific situation may be helpful); funerals.
GENEVAN 51 first appeared in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter and is attributed to Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3). Claude Goudimel (PHH 6) composed the harmonization in 1564; the melody was originally in the tenor. One of the longer and more difficult Genevan tunes in the Psalter Hymnal, this Phrygi…