Thursday, September 17, 2020

Hymns and their backgrounds. . .

670 Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

1 Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
    Raise the glad strain: “Alleluia!”
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, pow’rs,
Virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”


2 O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
    Lead their praises: “Alleluia!”
Thou bearer of the_eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”


3 Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!”
Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”


D 4 O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!”
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One:
    “Alleluia, alleluia!
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

The text of this hymn dates from 1906 and is from the pen of English hymn writer John Athelstan Riley.  Riley (1858-1945) lived a long and well-traveled life.  He was a native of London with an education at Eton and Pembroke College, Cambridge, but traveled to Middle Eastern countries including Persia, Turkey and Kurdistan to study the worship of the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.  As you can see, the sources for this hymn text are older, based on a couple of Orthodox or Byzantine prayers, the Te Deum and the Axion Estin. The first stanza addresses each of the traditional nine choirs of angels. The second stanza focuses on the Blessed Virgin Mary. The third stanza urges the faithful departed to join in praising God, including the church patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints, addressed in groups similar to those in the Litany of the Saints. The fourth stanza finally addresses the present congregation to join together in praise. The hymn directs the singer to the traditional Three States of the Church (the Church Triumphant, the Church Expectant, the Church Militant), reflecting the belief in the communion of saints.

Hymn to the Theotokos  - Axion Estin -  From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: 

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim,
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos we magnify you!

Listen and love it!




William Tighe said...

There are a couple of entertaining anecdotes about Riley in Colin Stephenson's Merrily On High (1972; repr. 2008: Canterbury Press):

esp. how, when in his old age he was addressing a group of Anglican clergy and a few bishops about the Eastern churches, he turned to the bishops and told them that if any of them had gotten married after becoming bishops in an Eastern church they would have been excommunicated for it, and regretted that there was no such discipline in the Church of England.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I greatly appreciate it. I have a file with hymns listed alphabetically. For each hymn I have the text and a hymn study. Most of the "hymn studies" come for Issues,Etc. (Began listening back in the days of Pastor Matzat. Wonderful Show, everywhere someone has a computer and internet access, there is access to the Gospel.)
I have also typed up the rites for Matins, Vespers and Compline. I use the hymns and the hymns studies for those rites.
Wouldn't it be neat if there were an organization with a web site that would post these rites so that you could click on a link and either hear or read the rite. Not talking a rite with sermons, etc. Maybe it might change every month or six months.
Anyway, thanks for adding to my file.