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Come Down, O Love Divine

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

It is difficult to isolate certain confessional themes in each song about the Holy Spirit. Rather, there are several themes that are woven together in nearly all of these songs. The Holy Spirit is identified as one with the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity; we plead for the coming and indwelling of the Spirit in our lives; the Spirit’s work is evident in creation and in God’s people throughout redemptive history; the Spirit calls and empowers the church for mission; and the Spirit is the source of power, fruit, and hope. These themes are expressed in confessional statements such as these:
  • Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 20, Question and Answer 53 testifies, “…the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.” In addition, the Spirit “makes me share in Christ and all his benefits, comforts me, and will remain with me forever.”
  • Our World Belongs to God has helpful references to these multiple themes of the Spirit’s work and ministry.
    • “Jesus becomes the baptizer, drenching his followers with the Spirit, creating a new community where Father, Son and Spirit make their home” (paragraph 28)
    • “The Spirit renews our hearts and moves us to faith… stands by us in our need and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant” (paragraph 29).
    • “God the Spirit lavishes gifts on the church in astonishing variety…equipping each member to build up the body of Christ and to serve our neighbors.”
    • “The Spirit gathers people from every tongue, tribe and nation into the unity of the body of Christ” (paragraph 30).
    • “Men and women, impelled by the Spirit go next door and far away…pointing to the reign of God with what they do and say” (paragraph 30).  
  •       Our Song of Hope also contributes very clearly regarding the Spirit’s work:
    • “The Holy Spirit speaks through the Scriptures…has inspired Greek and Hebrew words, setting God’s truth in human language, placing God’s teaching in ancient culture, proclaiming the Gospel in the history of the world” (stanza 6).
    •  “The Holy Spirit speaks through the church, measuring its words by the canonical Scriptures…has spoken in the ancient creeds, and in the confessions of the Reformation” (stanza 7).
    • “The Spirit sends [the church] out in ministry to preach good news to the poor, righteousness to the nations, and peace among all people” (stanza 16).
    • “The Holy Spirit builds one church, united in one Lord and one hope, with one ministry around one table” (stanza 17).
    • The Spirit calls all believers in Jesus to respond in worship together, to accept all the gifts from the Spirit, to learn from each other’s traditions, to make unity visible on earth” (stanza 17).
“…The Spirit works at the ends of the world before the church has there spoken a word” (stanza 20).

Tune Information

Name
DOWN AMPNEY
Key
D Major
Meter
6.6.11.6.6.11

Musical Suggestion

This prayer to the Holy Spirit could be sung on Pentecost Sunday, or perhaps even on Ascension Sunday, near the end of the service, as a contrast to the more typically exuberant joy of Ascension hymns. Have a choir or soloist sing it as a call to prayer or as a part of the congregational prayer. Then on Pentecost Sunday have the congregation offer this prayer as a way for all to express the desire with “yearning strong” for love to “create a place” in our hearts “wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.” You may want to sing it other times as well—any time we pray for the Holy Spirit to “draw near” and “visit” us with comfort and love. 
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 99)
— Emily Brink

Hymn Story/Background

This sung prayer for the Holy Spirit is from the genre of laudi spirituali—unofficial vernacular hymns of devotion that developed in Italian Roman Catholicism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed his distinguished tune for use in the English Hymnal with this text.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Bianco da Siena (b. Anciolina, circa 1350; d. Venice, Italy, circa 1434), an Italian poet and wool worker who was born at Anciolina, in the Val d'Arno. In 1367 he entered the Order of Jesuates, consisting of unordained men who followed the rule of St. Augustine. This order was instituted in that year by one John Colombinus of Siena, and suppressed by Pope Clement IX, possibly because of fear of not being able to control their mystical fervor. Little is known of Bianco beyond the fact that he is said to have lived in Venice for some years, and died there in 1434. His hymns were published at Lucca, in 1851, and edited by T. Bini, under the title, Laudi spirituali del Bianco da Siena.

 
— Emily Brink

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