Michaelmas – the feast of Saint Michael and All Angels is celebrated on 29 September (or the Sunday nearest). It is also known as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, or the Feast of the Archangels.
In fact, the Anglican Church recognises four Archangels, the fourth being Uriel.
In medieval England, Michaelmas marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman's year, a husbandman being a tenant farmer. Because it falls near the equinox, this holy day is associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days. It was also one of the English, Welsh, and Irish quarter days, when accounts had to be settled.
The angels are represented in Bible as spiritual beings intermediate between God and men, notably in Psalm 8.4-5. They are often depicted as benevolent celestial intermediaries between God and humanity, for example, when Gabriel foretold the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
The original words were written by Rabanus Maurus (c780-856). He was a Frankish Benedictine monk, theologian, poet, encyclopaedist and military writer who became archbishop of Mainz in 847. He wrote a number of hymns, including Christe, sanctorum decus angelorum.
The hymn was translated from the Latin by John Athelstan Laurie Riley (1858-1945), keeping to the metre of the original. He was one of the compilers of The English Hymnal of 1906, and contributed to it seven translations from the Latin. Minor modifications to the translated text were made by Revd Percy Dearmer (1867–1936). He was another editor of The English Hymnal who worked closely with Ralph Vaughan Williams, who harmonised the melody Coelites Plaudant from the Rouen Antiphoner of 1728.
Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels,
thou who hast made us, thou who o’er us rulest,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.
Send thy archangel, Michael, to our succour;
peacemaker blessèd, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.
Send thine archangel, Gabriel, the mighty;
herald of heaven, may he from us mortals
spurn the old serpent, watching o’er the temples
where thou art worshipped.
Send thy archangel, Raphael, the restorer
of the misguided ways of those who wander,
who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body
with thine anointing.
May the blest Mother of our God and Saviour,
may the assembly of the saints in glory,
may the celestial companies of angels
ever assist us.
Father almighty, Son and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessèd, be thou our preserver;
thine is the glory which which the angels worship,
veiling their faces.
This hymn is about angels in general, rather than the archangels.
The original words were written in 1681 by Revd Richard Baxter (1615-1691), a somewhat controversial figure who was a chaplain to one of Cromwell’s regiments. After the restoration of the monarchy he became chaplain to King Charles II but turned down the offer of the bishopric of Hereford. He became a Non-Conformist minister about 1873.
The hymn was revised by Revd John Hampden Gurney (1802-1862). Three of the original verses were omitted and some lines of the remainder were changed. Revd Gurney was much more of an establishment figure, the son of Sir John Gurney, Baron of the Exchequer. He published two collections of hymns, including some of his own compositions and was an active supporter of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK).
The tune is Darwall’s 148th, written by Revd John Darwall (1731-1789) for his setting of Psalm 148. He was Vicar of St Matthew’s Walsall from 1756. He wrote many tunes for hymns and metrical psalms, but this is the only one in common use today. Two different descants (verses 3 and 4).
Ye holy angels bright, who wait at God’s right hand,
Or through the realms of light fly at you Lord’s command,
Assist our song, for else the theme
Too high doth seem for mortal tongue..
Ye blessèd souls at rest, who ran this heavenly race,
And now, from sin released, behold the Saviour’s face,
His praises sound, as in His sight
With sweet delight you do abound..
Ye saints, who toil below, adore your heavenly King,
And onward as ye go some joyful anthem sing;
Take what He gives and praise Him still,
Through good or ill, who ever lives!.
My soul, bear thou thy part, triumph in God above,
And with a well-tuned heart sing thou the songs of love;
Let all my days till life shall end,
Whate’er he send be filled with praise.
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.
The picture of the chalice is symbolic of:
"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
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