For All the Saints -
Introduction of the Hymn
This is The Hymn of the Week with Dr. Larry Frazier—presenting the good news in song, combining faith and everyday experience.
Welcome to The Hymn of the Week. The last half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century were a “golden age” of hymnody. Fanny Crosby, William Bradbury and Philip Paul Bliss wrote “gospel hymns” which supported the revival movement in the United States. Today, many refer to these hymns and their “catchy” tunes as the “great, old hymns of the church.”
Formal Hymn Tradition
In contrast, the Oxford movement in England and the development of “mainline” protestant churches influenced the writing of more formal hymns. These hymns reflected traditional Christian doctrine. Examples include “The Church’s One Foundation,” “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “O Master Let Me Walk with Thee.” Their stately tunes with varied, often chromatic harmony reflect the romantic style-period of music. Also, they continued the tradition of Reformation hymns, English Psalm paraphrases and 18th and early 19th-century hymnody. In addition, this formal hymn tradition also includes American hymns by composers such as Lowell Mason.
Proceeding from this lineage is “For All the Saints” …The Hymn of the Week!
Click Below for For All the Saints Lyrics
For All the Saints: Hymn of the Week Radio Show Episode
Reading of For All the Saints Lyrics
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might; Thou,
Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
For the apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
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For the evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy name adored.
For martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
And now, let us hear our hymn performed by the choir of First Church, Los Angeles.
Background of For All the Saints
William Walsham How wrote over fifty hymns. He wrote most of these while rector at Whittington, Shropshire, near the border of England and Wales. “For All the Saints” first appeared in an 1864 collection entitled, “Hymns for Saints’ Days.”
Communion of the Saints
Most modern hymnals include only six or fewer of the original eleven stanzas of “For All the Saints.” The hymn is a meditation and commentary on the phrase, “I believe in the communion of the saints,” from the Apostles’ Creed. It is also based, in part, on a passage from the New Testament book of Hebrews.
Poor Man's Bishop
The Church of England appointed How as Bishop Suffragan of London and Bishop of Wakefield in 1888. He genuinely cared for the poor in this needy district of East London, becoming known as the “Poor Man’s Bishop.”
Other hymns by How include, “O Jesus,Thou art Standing,” “We Give Thee but Thine Own” and “O Word of God Incarnate.”
And now, let us hear our hymn as sung by the Huddersfield Choral Society and Joseph Cullen.
Background of the Tune
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the tune, “Sine Nomine” (Latin for “without name”) specifically for “For All the Saints.” As editor, he included hymn and tune in “The English Hymnal,” published in 1906.
Born October 12, 1872, in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, England, Vaughan Williams attended the Charterhouse School. Later, he studied at the Royal College of Music before receiving a doctorate in music from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1901. In addition, he studied with noted composers Max Bruch in Berlin and Maurice Ravel in Paris.
Composer and Editor
Vaughan Williams composed important symphonies, operas, ballets, chamber music, music for films, art songs in addition to much sacred music. His music often reflects a deep mysticism and Christian faith. He contributed several original tunes and almost 40 folk tune arrangements in addition to his work as editor of “The English Hymnal.” In addition, he was musical editor with Martin Shaw of 1925 and 1931 editions of “Songs of Praise.” Also, he edited “The Oxford Book of Carols,” published in 1926, the definitive collection of English carols.
Buried Next to Purcell at Westminster Abbey
Ralph Vaughan Williams died in 1958, just a few weeks before his 86th birthday. During his lifetime, he was considered the greatest English composer since Henry Purcell. Today, he is universally recognized as one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He is buried, appropriately, next to Purcell in the North choir aisle of Westminster Abbey.
And now, let us hear Vaughan Williams’ tune, “Sine Nomine,” powerfully played by The Grimethorpe Colliery Band..
Devotion or Scripture
Related to the Hymn
“Saints’ Day Hymn—Cloud of Witnesses”—was the original title of “For All the Saints.” Consider the connection of our hymn with Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. And, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” This is a reference to the connection modern Christians have with the lives of faith lived out by generations of Christians throughout history.
“For All the Saints” and indeed every Christian hymn, ancient and modern, are a mystical and compelling expression of this connection. The Apostles Creed states this as “the communion of the saints.”
Pursue Peace and Holiness
Hebrews, chapter twelve, continues with admonitions to “pursue peace with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God and acceptable worship with reverence and awe.” Amen.
And now, listen to our hymn as presented by the Guildford Cathedral Choir.
Thank you for joining me for this episode of “The Hymn of the Week.” Tune in again, next week, when we will consider another great hymn.
Until then, this is your host, Dr. Larry Frazier…
Goodbye and Keep Singing!