Friday, November 02, 2007

For All the Saints

Yesterday, being All Saints Day, is a good day in the church's calendar because of the obvious usage of the hymn "For All the Saints," by William How, an Anglican rector and bishop. At a time when we are called upon to remember the "cloud of witnesses" who have stood strong in the faith, this hymn is useful for more than just its title. It is a lengthy one, with many hymnals including five or six verses, and some up to eight.

Besides its fabulous text, the tune, SINE NOMINE, is by the master Ralph Vaughan Williams (if you're up on your Latin, you might get the little joke of the tune title). It features a driving pedal line for the organ, and a lively melody for singing (oh, I briefly discussed it before). The accents of the text are sometimes different between verses, so it also makes the singer (and organist) pay close attention to the words. I also find it very appropriate to play at funerals, although played with less fervor than I usually would. If you come to my funeral, be sure this one is sung—not that I'm saintly by nature, but all are saints who are sanctified.

I was happy to go to choir last night and find that we will be singing this on Sunday. I had already planned to play a Vaughan Williams setting of a communion hymn for a postlude, so it will be a Vaughan Williams Sunday. Here's the text, with all the verses, of "For All the Saints."

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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