Our processional hymn, “Now that the daylight fills the skies,” is sometimes attributed to St. Ambrose. Our Hymnal (probably more accurately) regards it as an anonymous hymn from the sixth century. Around that time, the text began to be chanted during the Office of Prime, the first daylight hour of the Divine Office. The translation in our Hymnal is by the Anglican priest John Mason Neale (1818-1866). There are two tunes available for this hymn in our Hymnal, and the tune we usually sing is HERR JESU CHRIST, first published in a Lutheran hymnal in 1648. J. S. Bach used this tune in several chorales preludes, a few of which you can listen to here.
Our sermon hymn this Sunday is “Lord Jesus, think on me,” a text taken from a prayer by a fifth-century bishop (read more on the hymn’s page, linked above).
At Communion, our hymns are “My God, thy table now is spread” and “Let all mortal flesh keep silence.” This latter hymn presents a text from the Eastern Orthodox liturgy (more precisely from the Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem) and has been used in Orthodox churches since (probably) the fifth century. The text combines a eucharistic theme with reference to the Nativity (“born of Mary”) and with images from Isaiah 6, portraying the glory of Christ as lauded by angels. The tune to which we sing this ancient text is PICARDY, adapted from a French folk song and first published in 1860.
Our service closes with “Faith of our fathers,” a hymn by Frederick William Faber (1814-1863). Descended from Huguenot stock, Faber was raised as a strict Calvinist, but while at Oxford, he came under the influence of John Henry Newman and the Anglo-Catholic movement. After being ordained an Anglican priest in 1839, he was eventually received in the Roman Catholic Church in 1845, the same year that Newman converted.
Bing Crosby recorded this hymn in 1942, and included it on his “White Christmas” album (which was my first exposure to the hymn, since my parents had that album in the 1950s). Since the recording was made in the middle of World War II, I have wondered whether many American have mistakenly assumed that the “fathers” in the hymn refers to Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and the gang. The dungeon, fire, and sword of the first stanza should make it clear that Faber had in mind the Church’s patristic legacy (which included many martyrs).
The text to the third stanza has been altered for our Hymnal to reflect American identity and Protestant convictions:
Faith of our Fathers! Mary’s prayers
shall win our country back to thee:
and through the truth that comes from God
England shall then indeed be free.