Two occasions when the Bible describes how the disciples (or at least some of them) witnessed Jesus in the context of Heaven.
The Transfiguration is celebrated on 7 August and the Ascension on the Thursday that is 40 days after Easter Day.
In the Church of England, Ascension Day is a Principal Feast (one of nine such), whose observance is obligatory. The Transfiguration is a Festival (one level lower thatn a Principal Feast.)
Matthew 17.1-8: And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Raphael painted The Transfiguration about 1520
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
Elias is identified as Elijah in modern translations of the Bible.)
This ancient hymn Coelestia fornam gloriae from the Cluniac Breviary of 1686 was translated into English by the Welshman Revd Richard E Roberts (1874-1945), who emigrated to North America in 1916. Originally a Calvanistic Methodist, he joined the United Church of Canada when it was formed in 1925 (an amalgamation of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists) and was Moderator of the UCC 1934-36.
The tune Auctoritate saeculi is an arrangement by John Henry Arnold (1887-1956) of an ancient melody. The second tune, Notre Dieu is a melody from Calvin’s Psalter of 1539 harmonised by Richard Runciman Terry; this is a double tune, using two verses each time it is played through.
An image of that heavenly light,
The goal the Church keeps ay in sight,
Christ on the holy mount displays
Where He outshines the sun’s bright rays.
Let every age proclaimer be
How, on this day, the chosen three
With Moses and Elias heard
The Lord speak many a gracious word.
As witnesses to grace are nigh
Those twain, the Law and Prophecy;
And to the Son, from out the cloud,
The Father’s record thunders loud.
With garments whiter than the snows,
And shining face, Lord Jesus shows
What glory for those saints shall be
Who joy in God with piety.
The vision and the mystery
Make faithful hearts beat quick and high,
So on this solemn day of days
The cry goes up of prayer and praise.
O God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Vouchsafe to bring us, by thy grace,
To see thy glory face to face.
Acts 1 1-11: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
John Singleton Copley 1775
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
The original ten stanza poem was written by Charles Wesley. Four of the stanzas are used for the hymn. The words provided here are Wesley's original (slightly different from those usually found in modern hymnals), and the omitted stanzas are shown below.
This hymn is often sung to the same tune as the Easter hymn Jesus Christ is risen today, but here it is coupled with Chislehurst by Sydney Nicholson. In this tune some of the Alleluias are relocated to the end of each verse.
 Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given,
Reascends His native heaven,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin,
Take the King of glory in,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise,
Seeking Thee beyond the skies,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see,
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!
 Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!
 See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!
 Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!
 Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!
 Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!
For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.
The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.
In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.
Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.
This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).
When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.
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