On the Sunday after Epiphany, our congregation will sing as its processional hymn “All people that on earth do dwell” (#278). The text for this familiar hymn is a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 100, which — along with Psalm 93 and Psalms 95-99 — celebrate God’s rule over all of Creation. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 40 declared that the glory of the Lord would be revealed, “and all flesh shall see it together.” Likewise, the angels told the shepherds that the joy introduced by Christ’s birth “shall be to all people.” As we sang last week on Epiphany, the coming of the wise men from the east signaled the universal consequences of the salvation brought to the world by the Nativity.
And so our opening hymn echoes the Psalmist’s call: “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.” The well-known words to our hymn are the work of William Kethe, about whom we know precious little. He was (it is believed) a Scottish minister who lived in exile during the reign of Mary Tudor. In addition to his work in helping to translate the Geneva Bible (an important early English translation of the Bible), he also paraphrased a number of Psalms for congregational singing. After the Protestant Reformation, most churches (except the Lutherans and some Anabaptist groups) restricted congregational singing to the texts of the Psalms, often in metrical paraphrases. English-language paraphrases were first published in 1549, and Kethe’s paraphrase of Psalm 100 first appeared in 1561. It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that hymns not based on the Psalms became common in Anglican worship.
The tune OLD HUNDREDTH, attributed to Louis Bourgeois (born c.1510), was first associated with Psalm 100 in the 1562 edition of the Genevan Psalter. It is, according to The Hymnal 1940 Companion, “the only tune which has been preserved intact throughout the entire history of metrical psalmody and modern hymnody.”
The Introit for this service combines the first verse of Psalm 100 with imagery from Isaiah: “On a throne exalted I beheld, and lo, a man sitting, whom a legion of Angels worship, singing together: behold, his rule and governance endureth to all ages. O be joyful in God, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness.” The Gradual and Alleluia also include that opening verse from Psalm 100, along with two verses from Psalm 72: “Blessed be the Lord God, even the God of Israel: which only doeth wondrous things. The mountains also shall bring peace: and the little hills righteousness unto the people. O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness. Alleluia.”
Our sermon hymn, “Jesus, gentlest Saviour,” is a new one for our congregation. The text is by Frederick William Faber (1814-1863), an Anglican priest and follower of John Henry Newman who entered the Roman Catholic Church and subsequently composed a number of hymns. Among them are “O come and mourn with me awhile” (#74), “My God, how wonderful thou art” (#284), and “Faith of our Fathers, living still (#393).
The Offertory proper is again from Psalm 100. The choir’s anthem (weather permitting!) is a setting of Psalm 100 as presented in the Book of Common Prayer — a direct translation from the Hebrew, not a metrical paraphrase — sung to OLD HUNDREDTH, a tune that presupposes a metrical text. The composer, Charles Wood (1866-1926), was also the arranger of three hymns in our Hymnal.
The Communion proper is a text from today’s Gospel reading about Jesus and his parents at the Temple. Then the choir will sing a setting of Ave verum corpus by Wood’s more famous contemporary, Edward Elgar (1857-1934). The text is from a 14th century Latin hymn:
Hail the true body, born of the Virgin Mary: You who truly suffered and were sacrificed on the cross for the sake of man. From whose pierced flank flowed water and blood: Be a foretaste for us in the trial of death. O sweet, O merciful, O Jesus, Son of Mary.
Our closing hymn is another Epiphany poem, “As with gladness men of old.” It was written by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898), a scholarly layman who also wrote “What child is this” and “Alleluia! sing to Jesus.” He wrote this poem during an illness, and after reading the Gospel reading for Epiphany.