St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Bolivar, Missouri
Friday, October 29, 2021
For All the Saints Hymn #287
For All Thy Saints #287(The original first line – changed for easier singing soon after it was written, to “the”)
For all thy saints, who from their labors rest, who thee, by faith, before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might; thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; thou, in the darkness drear, the one true Light. Alleluia! Alleluia!
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. Alleluia! Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia! Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long; steals on the ear the distance triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!
The golden evening brighten in the west; soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; sweet is the calm of paradise the blest, Alleluia! Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia! Alleluia!

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, Alleluia! Alleluia! It is traditional to have as many candles burning as we can manage at worship, or in more traditional countries, at graveyards, too – as we do at Easter Eve. And for the same reason. All Saints Day is an Easter celebration – a celebration of the new and unending life of those who have died in Christ, who are among us still. And Christ who is our Light, is truly the Light that enlightens everyone – and makes us, also, to shine in dark places.

About this Hymn It was written by the Rev. William Walsham How (1823-1897) when he was rector of Whittington, in Shropshire, England, near the Welsh border. He wrote many hymns of praise while he was there, including “O Christ the Word Incarnate” (#632 in our hymnal.) He was later appointed bishop of Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Bishop How was well-known for his work in the slums, and with industrial workers. He was called the “omnibus bishop” by those men, because he preferred to use public transport rather than hire a private carriage.
It fascinates me to see someone so biblically literate, gifted with poetic ability and serious about worship, who was also so pastorally engaged in ministries of justice and compassion. It seems to me that is what we want in a bishop – not simply an administrator.
The original first line, “For all thy saints” although harder to sing, was probably theologically and poetically better, because it parallels the verse’s other personal pronouns. It more specifically emphasizes the sense of the saints “belonging” to Christ, rather than simply being commended by him.
They were his saints because, belonging to Christ, they were partakers in his own continuing life of full communion with God. We may also be called saints, but only because we also belong to him and share the same Christ-life that animated the ones who have died – whose name we know. We are all one in him, whether we still “struggle” on earth, or “in glory shine.”
There is only one body of Christ. And it is his body, the church of which we are his saints; therefore our one-ness with the already-glorified saints is indeed a blest communion, fellowship divine.”
Someday we will be the ancestors of a new generation of Christians. It is our stories, whatever they are, that they will be telling then. Not only because it will give us great joy to become our true en-Christed selves, but for their sake it is important for us to be “faithful, true and bold” today.
In our own times of discernment and obedience to Christ, when we are bewildered and stressed, surprising new strength and courage sometimes comes to us, too, as we over-hear, as it were, the “distant triumph song.”
It is as if the song of Christ’s final victory which already the saints enjoy, and which will finally embrace the whole of his creation is already being sung back to cheer us on, if only we have ears to hear. When that happens, “Heart are brave again, and arms are strong.” Already “our evening brightens in the west.”
We need to be courageous just a little while longer. Our lives are short – however they seem to us now – and soon all our longing to be wholly Christ’s, and our battles against the powers of evil around us and sometimes within us will be over.
But even this is not the end. Rest is not the end. After earth’s final death, when everything in creation is remade and gathered up in Christ, “there breaks a yet more glorious day. The saints triumphant rise in bright array;” because the King of glory passes on his way, Alleluia! Alleluia!”
And will there then be only a few to greet him? By no means. All of us, finally, fully, redeemed, as bright as fire, will enter that unbounded glory: “From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast…streams in the countless host…”Alleluia! Alleluia



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