I'm still in an All Saints kind of mood, since my church (and maybe yours) will be celebrating that occasion today. Today's hymn is a little different from the grand hymns of praise, like yesterday's, or the classic For all the saints (which will be the opening hymn in many churches today). A paraphrase of the opening verses of Hebrews 12, it not only sings of the saints, it reminds us that we will join with them one day. It has been in the Episcopal hymnal since 1826.
Lo! what a cloud of witnesses
Encompass us around!
Those once like us with suffering tried,
But now with glory crowned.
Let us, with zeal like theirs inspired,
Strive in our daily race;
And, freed from every weight of sin,
Their holy footsteps trace.
Behold a Witness nobler still,
Who, moved by pitying love,
Endured the cross, despised the shame,
Now ever reigns above.
Thither, forgetting things behind,
Press we to God's right hand;
There, with the Savior and the saints,
Triumphantly to stand.
Translations and Paraphrases (Scottish), 1802; alt.
Tune: ST. MAGNUS (C.M.)
Jeremiah Clarke, 1707; harm. William H. Monk, 1868
Some will quibble with my choice of tune. The usual tune is ST. FLAVIAN, which I think is a little dreary for a triumphant text such as this one. The melody of ST. MAGNUS keeps moving upward, leading to a strong climactic point in its last line and fitting better the last lines of these verses. ST. FLAVIAN is fine for the Lenten text it is often paired with, but I've never liked it here. After several years of hearing that no one would ever change it, I finally found some (unneeded) vindication: ST. MAGNUS was indeed used with this text in the Church Choral-Book of 1860.