• Hymns

    A mighty fortress is our God

    Hymn #551Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546)Music: Martin LutherTune name: EIN FESTE BURG   THE TEXT Inspired by Psalm 46, this is the most famous of all of Martin Luther’s many hymns. Almost 500 years old, it remains a confident and vigorous affirmation of God’s faithfulness and protection, despite the very different circumstances faced by believers. The Protestant Reformer’s reference in the fourth stanza to “earthly powers” and their hostility to the Word was no doubt a reference to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. But today this hymn is sung in Roman Catholic parishes, and the final stanza has a more ecumenical significance. Christians are united in affirming the ultimate powerlessness of the…

  • Hymns

    Now that the daylight fills the sky

    Hymn #159Text: 6th century Latin hymnMusic: Benedictine plainsong; 17th-century Lutheran choraleTune name: IAM LUCIS ORTO SIDERE; HERR JESU CHRIST THE TEXT Before Amazon began to dominate our lives, “Prime” (with a capital P) was understood to refer to one of the times fixed in the life of the Church for liturgical prayer. Prime was the early-morning hour or “office,” typically tied to dawn. This hymn was regularly sung in the office of Prime in the Anglo-Irish liturgies, especially in the later Middle Ages, as it supplanted a hymn that had been appointed in the earlier Benedictine liturgy. The translation in our Hymnal is by the Anglican priest and prolific translator…

  • Hymns

    Majestic sweetness sits enthroned

    Hymn #353Text: Samuel Stennett (1728-1795)Music: 1635 Scottish PsalterTune name: CAITHNESS THE TEXT The son of a Baptist minister, Samuel Stennett followed his father into the ministry and was at the time of his death one of the most prominent of the dissenting ministers in London. He contributed 38 hymns to the notable 1787 hymnal, Selection of Hymns, edited by another notable Baptist preacher, John Rippon (1751-1836). Our Hymnal includes four of the original nine stanzas in the hymn; the others are included below in italics: To Christ, the Lord, let every tongueits noblest tribute bring:when he’s the subject of the songwho can refuse to sing? Survey the beauty of his…

  • Hymns

    O day of rest and gladness

    Hymn #474Text: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885)Music: Early 17th-century German folk songTune name: WOODBIRD THE TEXT This is one of nine hymns in our Hymnal by Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, nephew of the poet, William Wordsworth, and the most celebrated Greek scholar of his day. In 1862, he published The Holy Year, or, Hymns for Sundays and holy days throughout the year. “O day of rest and gladness” was the first hymn in the collection, an appropriate placement as the hymn is about the blessedness of every Sunday. The hymn reminds us that Sunday is the first day of the week, the first day of all Creation, and the day of…

  • Hymns

    O God, our help in ages past

    Hymn #289Text: Isaac Watts (1674-1748)Music: William Croft (1678-1727)Tune name: ST. ANNE THE TEXT This hymn is one of the many Psalm paraphrases by Isaac Watts, in this case Psalm 90. It first appeared in 1719 in his Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. In Great Britain, this hymn is regarded by many as a second National Anthem.  Ian Bradley, in The Book of Hymns, writes It is said that when Dr. Benjamin Jowett, that most eminent Victorian who was master of Balliol College, asked a group of fellow Oxford dons to note down their list of favourite hymns, all of them independently put down just…

  • Hymns

    I bind unto myself today

    Hymn #268Text: St. Patrick (372-466)Music: Traditional Irish MelodyTune name: ST. PATRICK, DEIRDRE   THE TEXT In John Julian’s 1907 Dictionary of Hymnology, we read: “St. Patrick’s Irish Hymn is referred to in Tirechan’s Collections (A.D. 690). It was directed to be sung in “all monasteries and churches through the whole of Ireland, . . .  which is a proof that it was at that time universally acknowledged to be his composition.” Although there have been numerous translations and paraphrases of the hymn into English, the one we sing was the work of Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander (1818-1895), the wife of a prominent Irish bishop. Mrs. Alexander was the author of…

  • Hymns

    Praise, my Soul, the King of Heaven

    Hymn #282Text: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)Music: John Goss (1800-1880)Tune name: LAUDA ANIMA THE TEXT Born in Scotland, Henry Francis Lyte studied in Dublin with the intention of entering the medical profession. Instead, he took Holy Orders in 1815 and eventually became a curate in Devonshire. He published several collections of poems during his lifetime. In 1818, a fellow clergyman developed a fatal illness. Lyte, a young clergyman, observed his colleague’s suffering and death with acute attentiveness. He later wrote about his friend: “He died happy under the belief that though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and be accepted for…

  • Hymns

    Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle

    Hymn #66 Text: Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (c. 540-c. 600) Translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) Music: Sarum Plainsong Tune name: PANGE LINGUA   THE TEXT The first line of the 6th-century Latin poem from which this hymn is taken is more literally translated: “Sing, tongue, the battle of glorious combat.” This soldierly imagery may offend the more tender followers of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. But this hymn insists that Christ’s death must be seen in triumphal terms. Earlier generations of Christians were more aware than we of the fact that our salvation involves the defeating of dangerous and powerful enemies. One of the oldest works of English poetry is The…

  • Hymns

    All glory, laud, and honor

    Hymn #62 Text: Theodulph of Orléans (d. 821) Music: Melchior Teschner (1584-1635) Tune name: ST. THEODULPH   THE TEXT As Bishop of Orléans during the reign of Charlemagne, Theodulph was a significant figure in guiding the theological reforms during the Carolingian Renaissance of the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Scholars believe he was also the author of the Libri Carolini, the “Books of Charles,” commissioned by the emperor to clarify understanding of the use of sacred images. One scholar judges that the Libri Carolini contain “much the fullest statement of the Western attitude to representational art that has been left to us by the Middle Ages.” The text of this Palm Sunday hymn was…

  • Hymns

    God himself is with us

    Hymn #477 Text: Gerhardt Tersteegen (1697-1769) Music: German melody Tune name: TYSK   THE TEXT Gerhardt Tersteegen was born into a family that belonged to the Reformed Church. His father’s death when he was just six years old so impoverished the family that they were unable to afford schooling for him, so at 16 he was apprenticed to his brother-in-law. He soon set up trade as a weaver, which left him more time for his studies of theology. He was more attracted to mystical writers than to the Reformed scholars and preachers from his family’s tradition. John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology (1907) reports: During the years 1719-24 he passed through a…