With a Song in my Heart – 40 Days of Sacred Songs
Day 25 – Wednesday after 4th Sunday of Lent
To Listen: For All the Saints
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness dread, their one true light.
Oh, 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.
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
And when the fight 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 cometh rest;
sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
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,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
From the Scriptures:
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented – 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
When you attend a rugby match between two Church Schools in Johannesburg the most redundant, yet persistently used, cheer shouted from the sidelines was, and perhaps still is, ‘Go Saints!’ There is every possibility that both teams are from St Somebody’s College. St Martin’s School would play St John’s College who would play St Stithian’s who would play St Martin’s! Clarity would only appear when any of us played King Edward VII School, whom we all enjoyed beating (whenever we could, darn them!)
Today’s hymns are more favourites from the Priory Church of St Peter, spiritual home of St Martin’s School, Rosettenvile, Johannesburg. Following the schools (and to be honest South Africa’s) enthusiasm for their rugby choosing a hymn about ‘Saints’ may be a little bit of a no-brainer. (Although for some reason I have yet to discover the 1st XV always sang ‘Flower of Scotland’ in their huddle before kick-off)
How do you get to be a saint? After all we are expected to strive for sainthood and surely the world would be a better place with more saints in it? (So long as they aren’t perpetually duffing each other up in the scrum!) Sainthood is not easy. It is one of those things that, like humility, once you think you’ve achieved the prize you have been reaching for falls to the ground in a mess of ego and pride. As Desmond Tutu used to remind us frequently, ‘Always remember to become a saint you usually have to die first.’ Of all the people I have known he is the one who lived out most fully Jesus’ parable about the grain of wheat.
Sainthood is hard work and much of it goes un-remarked, un-noticed, and apparently worthless until Brother Death has come to ‘hush our latest breath’. So it is appropriate, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek, that Vaughan Williams named the tune he wrote for these words ‘sine nomine’ (without a name). An acknowledgement to all those saints who have no special day set aside, no statues of them – and there were a goodly number of statues to choose from in the Priory Church – no prayers written in their honour, no schools or hospitals or orphanages named after them.
Perhaps all they have is the occasional spectator running down the touchline of the rugby pitch shouting ‘Go Saints!’ and that is enough. For are we not all called to run with perseverance the race marked out for us?
Maximillian Kolbe, the Saint of Auschwitz, taught his novice friars,
‘I expect you to be saints, and very great saints, because sanctity is not a luxury but a mere duty according to Christ’s teaching’.
Sainthood is not an easy journey (you usually have to die first…) yet every so often on this journey homeward I have been blest to receive an epistle from a saint, a thank you card, a small gift with a hand-written note, a poem, which helps me keep on keeping on and reminds me whenever I see someone denying themselves for the sake of someone else, to quietly shout ‘Go Saints!’
Most high and holy God,
enthroned in fire and light,
burn away the dross of our lives
and kindle in us the fire of your love,
that our lives may reveal the light and life
we find in your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
1) Send a ‘thank you’ note to someone who has been a ‘saint’ for you.
2) The next time someone does something selfless for you do something selfless for another.
Reprise: Lord Dismiss us With Thy Blessing
Whether your Church School is in far-away Johannesburg or nearby Holbrook the end of term service is always filled with joy and the prospect of the holidays. This hymn was a favourite at St Martin’s School but, if I remember correctly, the tune that was belted out was this favourite Welsh one and not the slightly milk sop tune set down in the hymn book.
Here’s an idea. Why not play the tune on the link and sing along with the words? They are almost made for each other.
Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing,
Thanks for mercies past receive;
Pardon all, their faults confessing;
Time that’s lost may all retrieve;
May Thy children
Ne’er again Thy Spirit grieve.
Bless Thou all our days of leisure;
Help us selfish lures to flee;
Sanctify our every pleasure;
Pure and blameless may it be;
May our gladness
Draw us evermore to Thee.
By Thy kindly influence cherish
All the good we here have gained;
May all taint of evil perish
By Thy mightier power restrained;
Seek we ever
Knowledge pure and love unfeigned.
Let Thy father-hand be shielding
All who here shall meet no more;
May their seed-time past be yielding
Year by year a richer store;
Make more faithful than before.
(However if you prefer an earlier tune listen to this…)
Please Note: These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin
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Prayers are adapted from the Psalm Prayers in the Common Worship Psalter. material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘With a Song in my Heart’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022