Monday, December 22, 2014

Saint Thomas

Today's feast day of Saint Thomas usually gets swallowed up in the Christmas season, though they may be some churches named for him that celebrate the day this time of year.  Most likely Thomas is remembered on the Sunday after Easter, when the lectionary reading tells of his encounter with the risen Jesus, whose previous appearance to the disciples Thomas did not believe. (Though I never forget that none of the disciples believed Mary Magdalene's account a week earlier, so it hardly seems fair that Thomas is the only one branded as 'doubting' for the last two centuries.)

In art, Thomas is often depicted carrying a spear, since in some accounts he died of a spear-wound somewhere in Asia.

We have already seen the hymn that I consider the most perfect for the day, as over the last several years I have presented many individual hymns for the various saints on the church calendar. For the next year I am planning something a bit different for our commemorations of the saints.  The hymn below first appeared (in somewhat different form) in 1864, written by Horatio Bolton, Lord Nelson (grandnephew of the famous Admiral).  He wrote a general first and last stanza of praise, then several stanzas for individual saints that would be used as the second, middle stanza on each particular saint's day.  Bolton's text has been much altered over the years but this seems like a useful variation to use throughout the coming year.

By all your saints still striving,
For all your saints at rest,
Your holy Name, O Jesus,
Forevermore be blessed!
For those passed on before us,
We sing our praise anew
And, walking in their footsteps, 

Would live our lives for you.

Praise Thomas, your Apostle,
Whose short-lived doubtings prove
Your perfect two-fold nature,
The fullness of your love.
On all who wait your coming,
Shed forth your peace, O Lord,

And grant us faith to know you,
True God made flesh, adored.

We pray for saints we know not,

For saints still yet to be,
For grace to bear true witness
And serve you faithfully,
Till all the ransomed number
Who stand before the throne
Ascribe all power and glory
And praise to God alone.

Horatio Bolton Nelson, 1864; alt.
English melody; adapt. Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906

Note that Bolton slips in an Advent reference, "all who wait your coming" seasonably suitable to December 22.

The meter of  has proven quite popular over the years so we can try out several different tunes with this text over the coming year as we explore the various middle stanzas of the saints of the church.

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