Your Sunday Hymn: Jerusalem My Destiny

For the fifth Sunday of Lent, Rory Cooney’s Jerusalem My Destiny:

Rory Cooney wrote a post about the writing of Jerusalem My Destiny at his blog, Gentle Reign:


“Jerusalem, My Destiny” was inspired by the confluence of several things that roiled around in my imagination. First, there is the centrality of Jerusalem in the imagination of the author of Luke, how the narrative of his gospel builds toward Jerusalem, site of the passion narrative, the resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, all of which take place in the city. From there, the narrative of Acts explodes out of the city of Jerusalem and goes out across the whole Mediterranean world. Second, there is the beautiful line that follows the transfiguration story in the gospel of St. Luke. As you might recall, perhaps from a previous blog entry, the transfiguration story is an “inclusio” narrative, sandwiched between two predictions by Jesus of his suffering and death. It happens in Luke 9. There is a first prediction of the passion in the story of Peter’s confession (18-22), then the transfiguration story (28-36), and another prediction of his betrayal at verse 44. Shortly afterwards, there is this verse at 51:

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…

The NRSV says Jesus “set his face” to go to Jerusalem; “The Message” version says he “steeled himself.” This is the part that caught me, that after the transfiguration, he knew that he could not wander in Galilee any more, but had to go to Jerusalem, the city of his destiny. This is not to say that I think that Jesus had any clear idea that his death was immanent; I simply feel that he knew that he had to confront the people and structures who were at the source of interpretation of the law and prophets and put his reading of the scriptures in competition with theirs. It didn’t take a prophet to know that the journey and confrontation might be dangerous.
This is how the refrain came out:

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way,
This journey is our destiny.
Let no one walk alone:
 the journey makes us one.

The verses correspond to the gospels of Lent, with verses 3, 4, and 5 jumping to the “A” cycle of gospels used in the Order of Initiation for the three scrutinies. There is also a bridge, a fifth verse leading to a final refrain in a new key and sung more broadly, that we only use on Passion Sunday. (Actually there is another text so that the bridge can be used more often, such as at celebrations of Confirmation or other times.)

O city of hosannas! O city of the cross!
The hour is upon us: I have come within your walls.
I have fixed my eyes on your hills…

I think of Jerusalem as the city, yes, and so many people have told me that they sang my song when they went on tours to the Holy Land as they approached Jerusalem! How cool is that? I’ve never been there myself, but the thought of that fills me with joy and gratitude. I also think of Jerusalem as the “new Jerusalem,” God’s city that is beyond our imagining but nevertheless our destiny. Just as importantly in my view, though, Jerusalem is us, Jerusalem the “city of peace,” is the Church, is Christ, the community of Pentecost. We cannot see our destiny, but we cannot turn away. For apprentice Christians and us “old timers” alike, the journey to Christ is the destiny, because Christ is here among us, revealing self to us in our daily lives, in strangers, in the poor, in sacraments, in nature everywhere we look. So we sing “let no one walk alone,” because becoming part of the Jerusalem community is becoming one’s truest self, is becoming conscious of the Spirit that lives in everyone because of creation, and made visible and conscious in our baptism.

Thanks to everyone who ever sang this song, in Jerusalem of the Holy Land or in the Jerusalem of your parish community.

3 thoughts on “Your Sunday Hymn: Jerusalem My Destiny

  1. When as a group we traveled all the footsteps of Jesus we had not included this song but could and should have. The terrain is SO hilly that the opening line itself is of sufficient application to such a trip. The rest of the lyrics are as appropriate for a group. I encourage support of Christians everywhere to not let this area disappear from their top priority of destinations.


  2. Where can we find the “bridge, a fifth verse leading to a final refrain in a new key and sung more broadly, that we only use on Passion Sunday. ” which is referred to above? I would love to do this on April 13!!


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