O day of rest and gladness

Hymn #474
Text: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885)
Music: Early 17th-century German folk song
Tune name: WOODBIRD

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 the Resurrection: the dawn of the new Creation.

Wordsworth’s collection also included the Ascension hymn, “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph” (#103), and “Songs of thankfulness and praise” (#53), written for the sixth Sunday after Epiphany.

The original presentation of the hymn included two additional stanzas following the second; they are included below in italics.

1. O day of rest and gladness,
O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness,
most beautiful, most bright;
on thee the high and lowly,
through ages joined in tune,
sing “Holy, holy, holy”
to the great God Triune.

2. On thee, at the creation,
the light first had its birth;
on thee, for our salvation,
Christ rose from depths of earth;
on thee, our Lord, victorious,
the Spirit sent from heav’n;
and thus on thee, most glorious,
a triple light was giv’n.

Thou art a port protected
from storms that round us rise;
a garden intersected
with streams of Paradise;
thou art a cooling fountain
in life’s dry dreary sand;
from thee, like Pisgah’s mountain,
we view our promised land.

Thou art a holy ladder,
where angels go and come;
each Sunday finds us gladder,
nearer to heav’n our home;
O day of sweet refection
thou art a day of love;
O day of Resurrection
from earth to things above.

3. Today on weary nations
the heav’nly manna falls;
to holy convocations
the silver trumpet calls,
where Gospel light is glowing
with pure and radiant beams,
and living water flowing
with soul-refreshing streams.

4. New graces ever gaining
from this our day of rest,
we reach the rest remaining
to spirits of the blest.
To Holy Ghost be praises,
to Father, and to Son;
the Church her voice upraises
to thee, blest Three in One.


WOODBIRD appears twice in our Hymnal, the other hymn employing it being “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” (#545, first tune). It is based on a German folk song, “Es flog ein kleins Waldvögelein,” which translates roughly to “There flew a little forest bird.” Here is tenor Peter Schreier singing the original version.

Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.