Come Now, O Prince of Peace

by Jesse Ratcliff


2020 has been the year of unusual adjectives—unprecedented, difficult, apocalyptic, and divisive being a few offered-up by Dictionary.com. Over the last nine months many of us have struggled with maintaining a sense of tradition while juggling new social norms. Additionally, as we bear witness to social, economic, and politic strife, a hope for reconciliation is ever-present. As I began to ponder musical choices for Advent 2020, a relatively new hymn from Korea has become an recurring motif.


Geon-yong Lee (b. 1947) of Seoul is an accomplished composer of numerous forms and styles. He studied in his native Korea and at the Frankfurter Musikhochschule. Lee was born in North Korea, but his family fled to south Korea following the war. Due to that childhood trauma, he has worked actively with other Anglicans toward the reunification of Korea. In 1988, Lee composed O-so-so (Come Now, O Prince of Peace) during a meeting of the World Council of Church as a clarion call for peace not only in Korea but across the globe.


Dr. C. Micheal Hawn, professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University), describes Lee’s composition as a combination of musical idioms—the triple meter being common to traditional Korean folk music and the utilization of a minor mode being more akin to Western music rather than Eastern music. To many ears, this tune may sound familiar to the ancient chorale Savior of the Nations, Come.


The text was originally translated by Marion Pope shortly after the hymn’s completion. Most notable is the repetition of the word “reconcile”. Hawn further explains that Lee’s addressing of God in four ways throughout the hymn “[…] establishes the authority and attributes of the One who can truly provide a cessation of conflict (pax in Latin) and wholeness and healing (shalom in Hebrew).”


Click HERE to hear a beautiful setting of this hymn by Jeremy Bankson and the choirs of First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Come now, O Prince of peace, make us one body.

Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Come now, O God of love, make us one body.

Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people.

Come now and set us free, O God, our Savior.

Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile all nations.

Come, Hope of unity, make us one body.

Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile all nations.

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