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Santo Espíritu, excelsa paloma (Holy Spirit, from Heaven Descended)

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This rich text is packed with Biblical imagery. Each verse recalls gifts of the Spirit, and asks for a fresh outpouring of those gifts. Even though we long for the undoing of Babel, this is not the first text to ask an Anglo congregation to try singing in Spanish; the many words and elisions are challenging. 
 
Sing! A New Creation

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
EXCELSA PALOMA
Key
A♭ Major
Meter
irregular

Musical Suggestion

Although the melody is long, the structure and internal repetition make it very accessible. The length of the text, however, will make singing it in Spanish a challenge. At least attempt to sing the first line of every stanza in Spanish as one small way to undo even now the power of the tower of Babel.
 
The text is rich, packed with biblical imagery, and filled with liturgical potential. Here is one set of ideas for use:
  • Choir or small group sings stanza 1 as a sung prayer at the beginning of the service, followed by everyone singing stanza 2. A bit later, use stanzas 3 and 4 as a prayer for illumination.
 
As for all new hymns, don’t just sing this once and put it away. Plan on singing it again once a month or so throughout the summer. It will soon take root in the hearts of the people as a song they will be able to sing on their own during the week.
(from Reformed WorshipIssue 59)
— Emily Brink

The structure and internal repetition of this melody make it very accessible. Accompany with guitars, percussion, and keyboards (a marimba sound would be nice). Like most Latin American music in 6/8, it sounds best when a triple rhythm is set against a double one. An easy way to manage this is to play the melody in the right hand, and use quarter notes in the left. Keep the tempo moderate, and feel in two beats per measure. 

Author and Composer Information

Philip W. Blycker (b. 1939) is a song writer from Texas who with his wife served as missionaries in Venezuela. They were a major force behind an outpouring of traditional hymn texts written to Latin American music. He joined Camino Global in 1966 and in 1989 became the Music Editor of the Spanish hymnal, Celebremos Su Gloria. He contributed more than a dozen songs to Mil Voces, the Spanish language hymnal of the United Methodist Church. In 2004 they joined the music faculty of the Rio Grande Bible Institute of Edinburg, Texas, on the Mexican border.

Albert Chung (b. August 22, 1986) is from South Pasadena, CA; he has an undergraduate degree in music education from UCLA and served as a band director at South Pasadena High School. His involvement in various church ministries around Southern California led him to study at Princeton Theological Seminary for his M.Div. degree (anticipated in 2014); his interest in music composition is aimed at providing accessible contemporary settings for congregational song. 
— Emily Brink
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.