Feast of Jaroslav Vajda (April 28)   1 comment

Above:  Jaroslav Vajda

Image Source = hymntime.com

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JAROSLAV JAN VAJDA (APRIL 28, 1919-MAY 10, 2008)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer

Jaroslav Vajda was a hymn writer who, in his words, sought to

raise the level of wonder and appreciation of God’s awesome creation, justification, and sanctification.

–Quoted in Paul Westermeyer, With Tongues of Fire:  Profiles in 20th-Century Hymn Writing (St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1995), page 153

Vajda grew up in the old Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church (1902-1971), later renamed the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and , since 1971, the SELC District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  Our saint, born in Lorain, Ohio, on April 28, 1919, was a son of a minister.  Vajda studied in Racine, Wisconsin; and East Chicago, Indiana; before attending Concordia Junior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana (Class of 1938); and Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (B.A., 1941; M.Div., 1944).  He interned at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church, Central City, Pennsylvania.  Our saint was an intellectually active person interested in Slovak culture and language, as evidenced by his thesis, a history of Jiri Tranovsky‘s Cithara Sanctorum (1636), or Harp of the Saints, a hymnal containing 414 texts.  As a young man he had mastered the Slovak language, completing his first translation from Slovak at the age of 21 years.  He was also a talented poet in the English language.  Vadja began to compose poetry at the age of 18 years.  At that age, when he submitted some poems to The Cresset, a literary magazine of the Missouri Synod, he received positive and encouraging feedback.

Vajda was a minister and a married man.  In 1945 he married Louise Mastaglio of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the couple went on to have four children.  Our saint served on the parish, denominational, and ecumenical levels.  The congregations he served were:

  1. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Cranesville, Pennsylvania (1945-1949), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor;
  2. Our Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Pennsylvania (1949-1953), as pastor;
  3. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Brackenridge, Pennsylvania (1953-1963), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor; and
  4. St. Lucas Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri (1963-1976), as assistant pastor.

Beyond the parish level Vadja edited The Lutheran Beacon, of the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church, from 1959 to 1963; edited This Day, a family magazine of the Missouri Synod, from 1963 to 1971; served on the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Worship from 1960 to 1978; served on the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship from 1967 to 1978, and therefore helped to create the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978); served on the committee that created the Worship Supplement (1969); and edited and developed books for Concordia Publishing House from 1971 until 1986, when he retired.

Vajda translated hymns of Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637), the Luther of the Slavs and the Father of Slovak Hymnody, from Slovak and composed many original hymns.  The oldest translation by our saint of a text from Tranovsky I have found dates to 1960.  Vajda, by his own accounts, wrote his first hymn in 1968, at the age of 49 years, and composed most of his texts after he retired, at the age of 67 years, in 1986.  Our saint’s contributions to hymnody were numerous and impressive, numbering 225.  (Aside:  Concordia Publishing House sells Sing Peace, Sing Gift of Peace:  The Comprehensive Hymnary of Jaroslav J. Vajda.)  Paul Westermeyer, in With Tongues of Fire (1995), listed 179 hymn titles alphabetically.  Not surprisingly, the greatest concentrations of Vajda’s hymns, apart from dedicated volumes, have been in Lutheran hymnals, given the confessional Lutheran theology in the texts.  My survey of hymnals and hymnal supplements of the main two Lutheran denominations in the United States has yielded the following counts of hymns by our saint:

  1. Worship Supplement (1969)–4,
  2. Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)–9,
  3. Lutheran Worship (1982)-5,
  4. With One Voice (1995)–3,
  5. Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998)–7,
  6. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)–6, and
  7. Lutheran Service Book (2006)–10.

Vajda, a longtime member of the Hymn Society of America, became a fellow of that organization in 1988.

Vajda, the recipient of many honorary doctorates, was a cultured man.  He studied Slovak Lutheran hymnody extensively.  He even wrote the article “Slovak Hymnody” for the excellent Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981), a fine reference work and one of the best of the hymnal companion volumes.  Our saint also played the violin and translated works from Slovak into English.  Aside from hymns by Tranovksy, Vajda translated Bloody Sonnets (1950), Slovak Christmas (1960), Janko Kral (1972), An Anthology of Slovak Literature (1976), and an operatic libretto, Zuzanka Hraskovia (1978).  Original writings, aside from hymns, included They Followed the King (1963), Follow the King (1977), and Men and Women of the Bible:  45 Meditations on Biblical Heroes of the Faith (1996).

Vajda died, aged 89 years, at Webster Groves, Ohio, on May 10, 2008.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT; ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Jaroslav Jan Vajda and others, who have composed and translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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One response to “Feast of Jaroslav Vajda (April 28)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Jiri Tranovsky (May 29) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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