Every year on Good Friday, we sing this ancient hymn to a traditional plainchant tune (you can read more about the hymn here). Father Glenn often quotes this hymn in his Good Friday sermons, citing what is in our Hymnal the 4th stanza, which begins: “Faithful cross! above all other, one and only noble tree.”
Since we’re not together to sing it this year, I thought it would be edifying to find a recording of a choir and/or congregation singing it to encourage our homebound worship.
The recording below includes some of the stanzas from the original hymn that our Hymnal doesn’t have (and omits one of them). But the chief difference is that after each stanza, Fr. Glenn’s favorite stanza — the one about the foliage and the wood and iron — is repeated as a refrain, and sung to a different tune, one which complements the traditional plainchant we’re all used to. (Maybe we can sing it this way next year, together.)
And the most remarkable thing about this recording is that it is sung by an ensemble called “The Choir of All Saints’ Church.”
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
Sing the ending of the fray;
For the Cross, the Victor’s trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ, the world’s Redeemer,
As a Victim won the day.
Faithful Cross! above all other,
One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Sweetest wood, and sweetest iron!
Sweetest weight is hung on thee.
God in pity saw man fallen,
Shamed and sunk in misery,
When he fell on death by tasting
Fruit of the forbidden tree;
Then another tree was chosen
Which the world from death should free.
Therefore when the appointed fullness
Of the holy time was come,
He was sent, who maketh all things,
Forth from God’s eternal home;
Thus he came to earth, incarnate,
Offspring of a maiden’s womb.
Thirty years among us dwelling,
His appointed time fulfilled,
Born for this, he meets his Passion,
For that this he freely willed.
On the Cross the Lamb is lifted
Where his life-blood shall be spilled.
Bend thy boughs, O Tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For a while the ancient rigour
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend.
Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s Ransom to sustain;
That a shipwrecked race might ever
Thus a port of refuge gain,
With the sacred blood anointed
Of the Lamb for sinners slain.
He endured the nails, the spitting,
Vinegar, and spear, and reed;
From that holy body piercèd
Blood and water both proceed;
Earth, and stars, and sky, and ocean,
By that flood from stain are freed.
To the Trinity be glory
To the Father and the Son
With the co-eternal Holy Spirit
Ever three and ever one
One in love and one in splendor,
While unending ages run. Amen.