Saint Bartholomew

Commemorated on 24 August

A hymn to sing along with…

(part of a set of hymns about the Twelve Apostles)

There are various stories about how Bartholomew was martyred, one of them being that he was skinned alive. For this reason he is is the patron saint of tanners, leatherworkers, bookbinders, and glove makers (among others).

Not a great deal is recorded about Bartholomew in the Bible. He is listed as one of the Twelve in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Gospel of John doesn’t include such a list). He is among the list of eleven named at the beginning of Acts of the Apostles before Matthias was chosen to join them. He may be the same person as Nathaniel named in the Gospel of John as being introduced to Jesus by Philip.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

John 1.45-51

However, the lack of hard facts did not deter Revd John Ellerton (1826-93) from publishing this hymn about him in 1871 while he was the Vicar of Crewe Green. Ellerton also wrote The day thou gavest.

The words are here coupled with the tune Rustington by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918), who contracted the “Spanish” flu in the earlier global pandemic and died in the autumn of 1918.

King of saints, to whom the number
Of thy starry host is known,
Many a name, by man forgotten,
Lives forever round Thy throne;
Lights, which earth-born mists have darkened,
There are shining full and clear,
Princes in the court of heaven,
Nameless, unremembered here.

In the roll of Thine apostles
One there stands, Bartholomew,
He for whom today we offer,
Year by year, our praises due;
How he toiled for Thee and suffered
None on earth can now record;
All his saintly life is hidden,
In the knowledge of his Lord.

Was it he, beneath the fig tree
Seen of Thee, and guileless found;
He who saw the good he longed for
Rise from Nazareth’s barren ground;
He who met his risen Master
On the shore of Galilee;
He to whom the word was spoken,
“Greater things thou yet shall see”?

None can tell us; all is written
In the Lamb’s great book of life,
All the faith, and prayer, and patience,
All the toiling, and the strife;
There are told thy hidden treasures;
Number us, O Lord, with them,
When thou makest up the jewels
Of thy living diadem.

Saint Thomas

Commemorated on 3 July

A hymn to sing along with…

(part of a set of hymns about the Twelve Apostles)

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20:24–29

The words were written by the prolific hymn-writer and translator John Mason Neale. You can read more about him on the post O what their joy and their glory must be.

The tune chosen here is the 15th century English Carol tune This Endris Nyght. You may know it as a tune for the 17th century Carol Behold the Great Creator makes.

This Endris Nyght

We have not seen, we cannot see,
the happy land above,
from sin and death and suffering free,
where all is peace and love.

We only see the path is long
by which we have to go;
we only feel the foes are strong
who seek to work us woe.

We have not seen, we cannot see
the cross our Master bore,
with all its pains, that we might be
the slaves of sin no more.

We only think it hard to part
with every pleasant sin,
and give to God a perfect heart,
and make Him Lord within.

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
and, blessèd saint, like thee,
we sometimes doubt if faith tells right,
because we cannot see.

Upon the promise we would lean
thy doubting heart received;
blessèd are they that have not seen,
and that have yet believed.

St Mark the Evangelist

Commemorated on 25 April

A hymn to sing along with…

Saint Mark is the patron saint of Venice and his symbol is the Winged Lion, shown here with Venice in the background. Relics supposed to be the body of Saint Mark were stolen from Alexandria in 828 by Venetian merchants and were later placed in St Mark’s Basilica, which wasn’t built until the 11th century.

Not much is known about St Mark as a person. He is thought to be the person named as John Mark in the Acts of the Apostles and possibly the cousin of Barnabas. He accompanied Saints Paul and Barnabas on some of their journeys, but seems to have displeased Paul at some stage.

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Acts 15.36-41

In the Epistle to the Colossians chapter 4, St Paul recommends a number of of his fellow workers including Onesimus (was he the inventor of the Onesie?) and “Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments)…”.

Mark may have been the unnamed young man recorded in St Mark’s Gospel as the one who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place and/or the one who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested.

According to tradition, in AD 49 Mark travelled to Alexandria and founded the Church of Alexandria, but in AD 68, the pagans of the city resented that he was leading people away from worshipping their traditional gods; they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

The winged creatures associated with the four evangelists appeared in a vision that came to Ezekiel:

Ezekiel’s Vision – Raphael

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

Ezekiel 1.4-10

The beasts were described again (slightly differently) in Revelation:

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Revelation 4.6-8

In Christian tradition, the lion represents Mark, the calf Luke, the man Matthew, and the eagle John.

This is quite a long preamble to what is not a long hymn, but without the familiarity with the Ezekiel context, the first verse could be somewhat disconcerting. Imagine yourself waiting for the traffic lights to change on a foggy day…

The words to the hymn were written by Irish-born Cecil Frances Alexander née Humphreys (1818-1895), wife of Revd William Alexander, who later became Archbishop of Armagh. She wrote many well-known hymns. A number of the hymns she wrote for children are still popular today, including Once in royal David’s city, There is a green hill far away and All things bright and beautiful.

The tune Wellington was composed by Michael Fleming (1928-2006). It was written for the ancient Advent hymn Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates. Michael Fleming was organist for some years at the annual televised Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.


From out the cloud of amber light,
Borne on the whirlwind from the north,
Four living creatures winged and bright
Before the prophet’s eye came forth.

The voice of God was in the four
Beneath that awful crystal mist,
And every wondrous form they wore
Foreshadowed an evangelist.

The lion-faced, he told abroad
The strength of love, the strength of faith;
He showed th’almighty Son of God,
The Man divine who won by death.

O Lion of the royal tribe,
Strong Son of God, and strong to save,
All power and honour we ascribe
To Thee who only makest brave.

For strength to love, for will to speak,
For fiery crowns by martyrs won,
For suffering patience, strong and meek,
We praise Thee, Lord, and Thee alone.

Easter 2020

Painting by Oliver Ward, April 2020

An Easter Day prayer, written by the Revd Paul Nicolson (1933 -2020), who addresses Jesus as “Brother” because in Revd Paul’s own words: “Jesus is a brother to men, women and children, and to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, other faiths, and to many for whom any kind of faith is difficult”:

Jesus our Brother, lead us out of illusion, out of injustice, out of oppression, out of suffering, out of poverty, out of darkness into the light, the light of hope, of peace, of love, of understanding, into the wonder, into the mystery

And here is yet another of the Webmaster’s favourite Victorian hymns,
this one by Revd Sabine Baring-Gould with a tune by Samuel Sebastian Wesley…

On the Resurrection morning soul and body meet again;
No more sorrow, no more weeping, no more pain!

Here awhile they must be parted, and the flesh its Sabbath keep,
Waiting in a holy stillness, wrapt in sleep.

For a while the tired body lies with feet toward the morn:
Till the last and brightest Easter day be born.

But the soul in contemplation utters earnest prayer and strong,
Bursting at the Resurrection into song.

Soul and body re-united thenceforth nothing shall divide,
Waking up in Christ’s own likeness satisfied.

Oh! the beauty, Oh! the gladness of that Resurrection day,
Which shall not through endless ages pass away.

On that happy Easter morning all the graves their dead restore;
Father, sister, child and mother meet once more.

To that brightest of all meetings bring us, JESUS CHRIST, at last;
By Thy Cross, through death and judgment, holding fast.

(requested for the Webmaster’s funeral!)