JESUS, THOU JOY OF LOVING HEARTS
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091–1153
Translated by Ray Palmer, 1808–1887
I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
This song is another of the fine hymn texts that originated during the Middle Ages. It is thought to have been written by a monk—one of the most prominent religious leaders of his day. An important part of the medieval church was the role of the monks and their monasteries. Since these churchmen were among the few who could read and write, their institutions became powerful influences in shaping the religious and cultural development of Western civilization.
As a young man, Bernard became abbot of the monastery of Clairvaux, France. His influence was soon felt throughout Europe. It is said that he commanded kings, emperors, and prelates—and they obeyed him. In 1146 he was commissioned by the pope to lead a second preaching crusade against the Moslems. Because of his eloquence and strong preaching, great crowds followed him. One of the conditions for those joining the Crusade was a personal conversion experience. It is recorded that multitudes of vicious men were dramatically changed through Bernard’s preaching. They carried a cross unashamedly as a symbol of their commitment to Christ and this crusade.
Bernard wrote a number of books, chiefly on such subjects as church government, monasticism and other church-related topics. It is generally agreed that he wrote a long 192-line poem titled “Dulcis Jesus Memorial” (“Joyful Rhythm on the Name of Jesus”). In 1858 Ray Palmer, an American Congregational preacher, translated from the Latin a portion of this medieval poem attributed to Bernard for the hymn “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts.” This hymn text aptly describes the preciousness of Christ in each believer’s life.
Jesus, Thou joy of loving hearts, Thou fount of life, Thou light of men, from the best bliss that earth imparts, we turn unfilled to Thee again.
Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood; Thou savest those that on Thee call; to them that seek Thee, Thou art good; to them that find Thee, all in all.
Our restless spirits yearn for Thee, where’er our changeful lot is cast; glad when Thy gracious smile we see, blest when our faith can hold Thee fast.
O Jesus, ever with us stay; make all our moments calm and bright; chase the dark night of sin away; shed o’er the world Thy holy light.
John 6:35; Ephesians 2:14–18; Colossians 1:13, 14; 1 Peter 1:8
Live with the awareness that even with the “best bliss that earth imparts,” without an intimate awareness of Christ, life will be empty. Make His presence the goal of your activities.