O King all glorious

O King all glorious, amid thy saintly company,
Who ever shalt be praised, who over passest utterance.
Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us,
And we are called by thy Holy Name;
Leave us not, O Lord our God,
that in the day of judgement it may please thee
to place us in the number of thy saints and blessed ones,
O King most blessed.

~ Compline antiphon from the Sarum Gradual

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A word from Brahms

… with a few internal rhymes.

Let nothing ever grieve thee, distress thee, nor fret thee;
Heed God’s good will, my soul, be still, compose thee.
Why brood all day in sorrow? Tomorrow will bring thee
God’s help benign and grace sublime in mercy.
Be true in all endeavour and ever ply bravely;
What God decrees brings joy and peace,
He’ll stay thee.

~ Johannes Brahms, “Geistliches lied”

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Tyndale and the Lord of the Rings

If you’re wondering what those two have in common, check out this video promoting a new Tyndale oratorio.

It’s the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, after all!

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Heavenly Salem

Here’s an early Christian hymn, sung at the dedication of church buildings. For my Protestant friends, it’s kind of like “The Church’s One Foundation” (S. J. Stone, 1866) — only better.

Blessed City

Blessèd city, heavenly Salem,
vision dear of peace and love,
who of living stones art builded
in the height of heaven above,
and with angel hosts encircled,
as a bride dost earthward move!

From celestial realms descending,
bridal glory round thee shed,
meet for him whose love espoused thee,
to thy Lord shalt thou be led;
all thy streets and all thy bulwarks
of pure gold are fashioned.

Bright thy gates of pearl are shining,
they are open evermore;
and by virtue of his merits
thither faithful souls do soar,
who for Christ’s dear name in this world
pain and tribulation bore.

Many a blow and biting sculpture
polished well those stones elect,
in their places now compacted
by the heavenly Architect,
who therewith hath willed for ever
that his palace should be decked.

Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the Head and corner-stone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the church in one,
Holy Sion’s help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody,
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, to-day;
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy servants as they pray,
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain,
what they gain from thee for ever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father,
laud and honour to the Son,
laud and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
consubstantial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.

~ Latin (“Urbs beata”), 7th or 8th cent.
Trans. J. M. Neale, 1851

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Man is great with God

How great we have become! The highest Seraphim
Go veiled before our God. But we go nude to Him.

~ Angelus Silesius, Cherubinischer Wandersmann, III.203

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The Fair Glory

Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels. And here is an ancient hymn. Written in the 800s, it asks for the help of angels, invoking their powers as guides, guards, and conquerors of serpents. But interestingly, this hymn is not addressed to angels themselves (as, for instance, Tolkien’s Elves sing to Elbereth in Middle Earth). It’s addressed to Christ. The hymn asks Christ to “send” his angels, angelos of course being Greek for “messenger.”

The poem uses what used to be a standard anthem form — blank iambic pentameter, in which lines are five beats long and don’t rhyme. This creates an elevated style very satisfying to sing, but less satisfying to read. Check out the sheet music here for the tune.

One final caveat: If you think the hymn dwells too long on the angels themselves (including an apocryphal angel), just wait for the last verse.

Christ, the Fair Glory

Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels,
Thou who hast made us, thou who o’er us rulest,
Grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
Steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succour;
Peacemaker blessed, may he banish from us
Striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
All things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel the Mighty;
Herald of Heaven, may he from us mortals
Spurn the old serpent, watching o’er the temples
Where thou art worshipped.

Send thine archangel Raphael, Restorer
Of the misguided ways of men who wander,
Who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body
With thine anointing.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessed, be thou our Preserver;
Thine is the glory which the angels worship,
Veiling their faces.

~ Rabanus Maurus, c. 800; trans. Athelstan Riley and Percy Dearmer, 1906
[Athelstan Riley is also the author of Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, posted earlier this week.]

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Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

This is a holiday week! The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is on Sept. 29. In preparation, here’s an angel-worthy hymn. It was written by Athelstan Riley and published in 1906 — thus proving that great hymnody could still come out of the early 20th century.

Riley modeled the hymn on two ancient anthems invoking angels and saints in heaven: the Latin Te Deum (“We Praise Thee O God”) and the Greek Axion Estin (“It is Truly Meet”).

Four more things to love about this hymn:

    1. It calls on all 8 traditional orders of angels.
    2. It invokes the “Watchers,” an ancient Jewish-Christian category of angel.
    3. It’s sung to the same tune as “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
    4. It positions Mary above the angels, and yet (to a Protestant’s satisfaction) below God. What does she do in her exalted position? What she did before: “Magnify the Lord.”

*     *     *     *     *

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, Dominions, Princedoms, Powers,
Virtues, Archangels, Angels’ choirs,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Most blessed, lead their praises!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

~ Athelstan Riley, 1906

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