Music to End the Day for Sunday, 1 November 2020
Good evening, everyone.
Today, as you know, is All Saints Day, and tomorrow, 2 November is the Commemoration of All Souls.
All Souls Day is an occasion to contemplate mortality and grief, resurrection and hope.
In the context of the present pandemic, it provides an important opportunity to celebrate the lives of all who have died in the last nine months,
and to pray for the many families who have been bereaved.
‘Music for the end of the day’ this evening leads us gently from the celebration of All Saints to the contemplation of All Souls.
You may like to begin by (re)visiting from this morning’s service my improvisation on Vaughan Williams’s wonderful tune ‘Sine Nomine’, regularly used for the hymn ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest’.
Now we have a simple celebration of sainthood from the pen of Isaac Watts, based on two well-known passages of scripture.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald,
the bringer of good news, announcing deliverance, proclaiming to Zion, ‘Your God has become king.’
Your watchmen raise their voices and shout together in joy;
for with their own eyes they see the Lord return to Zion.
Break forth together into shouts of joy, you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all nations,
and the whole world from end to end shall see the deliverance
wrought by our God.
Isaiah 52: 7–10
But happy are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear!
Truly I tell you: many prophets and saints longed to see what you now see, yet never saw it;
to hear what you hear, yet never heard it.
Matthew 13: 16–17
Here is the hymn. I recorded it in our lovely Chapel at Cornerstone, using the gentle tune ‘Venice’ by William Amps.
How beauteous are their feet
who stand on Zion’s hill
who bring salvation on their tongues
and words of peace reveal!
How charming is their voice!
How sweet the tidings are!
Zion, behold, thy Saviour King
he reigns and triumphs here.
How happy are our ears
that hear this joyful sound
which kings and prophets waited for
and sought, but never found.
How blessèd are our eyes
that see this heavenly light
Prophets and kings desired it long
but died without the sight.
And so we move to a commemoration of All Souls,
reflected in fine words of the eighteenth-century German writer Catharina von Schlegel, (translated by Jane Borthwick)
‘Be still my soul’, sung to Sibelius’s great theme from the symphonic poem ‘Finlandia’. Schlegel’s text and Sibelius’s music combine to create a mood at once serene and resolute, offering a powerful vision of hope.
This hymn has special meaning to me, as it was a favourite of my dear Mother,
and sung both at my Father’s funeral in 2011 and Mum’s own funeral in 2013.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the veil of tears,
then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
from His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.