Who is the King of Glory
How shall we call Him?
He is Emmanuel
the promised of ages.
When I hear the word, “Glory” this old song is what comes to mind first and it’s appropriate, this being the Nativity Fast and all. When I was a kid, we sang “The King of Glory Comes” during Advent for the most part. It felt ancient, almost tribal and it stuck to me somehow.
Because the Internet is magic I now know where this song originated. I had suspected that it came into popularity when I was growing up in the Catholic church of the 70’s. The song was written by a Catholic priest, Willard Francis Jabusch, in the late 60’s and found it’s way into the hymnals quickly during the 70’s and early 80’s.
The words were taken from a number of scriptural references but it turns out the tune was based on an Israeli folk melody, “Oh Promised One” which would account for the exotic sound to my midwestern American Catholic girl ears.
I remember it was one of the new songs that made it into the blue binders we used downstairs, the binders that replaced the staid old black hymnals we used upstairs in the “big” church. We called those services “Guitar Mass” or “Downstairs Mass” and though the Liturgy was the same, the music and the atmosphere were different. It was relaxed and conversational. My siblings and I begged to go to downstairs Mass. It was hip and cool, the music strange and interesting, the vestments worn by the priest were groovy and colorful and the sermons were shorter. I suppose it was an attempt to remain relevant to the times, an updated version of an ancient practice struggling to keep people engaged and interested.
The culture shifts, though, it always does and in time the Guitar Masses all but disappeared in my parish. Things move in cycles like that, bellbottom jeans will come and go, ideas will drift in and out of favor. And music will be old and then new again so that songs about an ancient promise become songs about the glory of that promise, breathing new life into everything once again.