‘Wind Who Makes All Winds’ honors presence of Holy Spirit

“Wind Who Makes All Winds that Blow”
Thomas Troeger
UM Hymnal, No. 538

Wind who makes all winds that blow, gusts that bend the sapling low,
gales that heave the sea in waves, stirrings in the mind’s deep caves:
Aim your breath with steady power on your church, this day, this hour.
Raise, renew the life we’ve lost, Spirit God of Pentecost. *


 The Rev. Thomas Troeger wrote “Wind Who Makes All Winds that Blow” for a mass celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit at the request of Fr. Sebastian Falcone, dean of St. Bernard Institute (now St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry), in the diocese of Rochester and Albany, New York.

Subsequently, the hymn text appeared first in Christian Ministry (May 1983), and the tune FALCONE and text were included New Hymns for the Liturgy (1985), a collection of the author’s hymns with musical settings by his colleague at that time, Carol Doran.

Hymn writer Thomas Troeger teaches at Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. PHOTO COURTESY YALE DIVINITY SCHOOL

Each stanza begins with a series of descriptive and evocative phrases that create images in our mind. The second half of each stanza moves from the evocative to the imperative—the language of petitionary prayer—beginning with verbs that make a demand: aim, raise, renew (stanza one); come, burst, fill (stanza two); breathe, blow, speak (stanza three).

The imagery of this poetry is bold and vigorous. This wind has the energy of the ruah (Hebrew for air, breath, wind) at the dawn of creation. The same breath that formed chaos into the cosmos and brought order into the universe (Genesis 1:1), and breathed life into the dust that shaped human beings (Genesis 2:7), now shapes the church on the day of Pentecost. This wind not only “bend[s] the sapling low” but also reaches to the depths of the “mind’s deep caves.”

Stanza two focuses on the role of fire, recalling the “tongues of sacred flame” in the Acts narrative. Fire “fuels” and serves as “beacons” to guide us away from danger.

Stanza three names at last the Holy Spirit—both wind and flame. The force of the wind and the power of the flame combine to “breathe and blow” until “every land by your grace shall understand.”

This hymn is not a recounting of the events of Pentecost, but summons the energy of Pentecost to inspire us as part of the body of Christ known as the church. There is no placid, gentle dove here, but poetic power that commands a response.

The musical setting FALCONE commands equal attention for bringing this message to us with contemporary sounds that are charged with dissonance and movement, though resolving beautifully at the end of each stanza on a solid major chord. Commenting on the music, Dr. Doran notes, “As is true with all the hymnody on which Tom Troeger and I have collaborated, our goal is to have the music be an active partner in expressing the mood and imagery of each specific text, rather than a setting for general use. In the first half of each stanza in this hymn, the music intentionally joins the mood of the text in addressing and praising God. In the second half, the music suddenly moves with the words into a mode of urgent petition.”

Dr. Doran (b. 1936) has served a variety of seminary-related posts including associate professor of worship and pastoral music at Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, N.Y., where she was at the time of her collaboration with Mr. Troeger. Later she was professor of music & liturgy and seminary organist at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. She currently serves as a consultant for clergy and seminarians. Known for her skills as an organist and a prolific composer, her hymn tunes appear in many hymnals in North America and beyond.

Thomas Troeger (b. 1945), J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz professor of Christian communication at Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music since 2005, is a native of New York. He graduated from Yale University and Colgate Rochester Divinity School, and has received honorary doctorates from Dickinson College and Virginia Theological Seminary. He served New Hartford Presbyterian Church as associate pastor in the 1970s before he began teaching at Colgate Rochester.

After serving as the Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck professor of preaching and communication at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, beginning in 1991, he was jointly appointed in 2005 to positions at the Yale Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Mr. Troeger is the author of 20 books in the fields of preaching, poetry, hymnody and worship. His hymns, published in several volumes with Oxford University Press, appear in virtually all major hymnals published since the late 1980s. Ordained in both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church, he is also a musician, having studied flute with John Oberbrunner at Syracuse School of Music.

 

* © 1983 Thomas H. Troeger.
Quoted with permission from Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. 
Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology.

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