Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Saint Barnabas

Barnabas was one of the earliest converts to Christianity, first appearing in the Book of Acts. Called "the Levite" and born Joseph, his name was changed at his conversion when he sold his belongings and gave the proceeds to the church; the new name means "son of encouragement" or, as frequently named in a number of hymns about him, the "Son of Consolation."

By some accounts, Barnabas was the cousin of Mark, the Gospel writer. After Paul's conversion, it was Barnabas who introduced him to the twelve disciples. Later, Paul and Barnabas traveled togather, converting many others to the church in Antioch and in Cyprus (where Barnabas is the patron saint). Eventually he was stoned to death for his beliefs (accounts differ as to where this happened).

O Jesus Christ, our Captain of salvation,
Thyself by suffering schooled to human grief,
We bless thee for thy heirs of consolation,
Who follow in the steps of thee their chief.

Those whose bright faith makes weary hearts grow stronger,
And those once silent sing in joyful strain,
Bids the lone convert feel estranged no longer,
And wins the sundered to be one again.

Such was thy Levite, strong in self oblation,
To cast his all at thine apostles’ feet;
He whose new name, new faith, and new vocation,
From age to age our thankful strains repeat.

Jesus, thy bless├Ęd saints in memory keeping,
Still be thy church’s watchword, “Comfort ye,”
Till in our promised home shall end all weeping,
And every want be satisfied in thee.

John Ellerton, 1871, alt.
Henry J. Gauntlett, 1875

Gauntlett's tune is one of those high Victorian arrangements that's a little hard to follow without seeing the music, but as soon as I heard it I knew I wanted to use it today. He wrote the tune for this particular text after it had appeared in another hymnal with another tune.

P.S. The Barnabas window above is again by Edward Burne-Jones, traditionally depicting the saint with an olive branch and a book (by some accounts the Gospel of Matthew).

1 comment:

Can Bass 1 said...

How very interesting. Thank you!