505. For All the Saints

1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who to the world by faith their Lord confessed,
your name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, alleluia!

2 You were their rock, their fortress, and their might;
you, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight,
and in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Alleluia, alleluia!

3 May all your soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Alleluia, alleluia!

4 O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one within your great design.
Alleluia, alleluia!

5 And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
far off we hear the distant triumph song;
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, alleluia!

6 But then there breaks a yet more glorious day:
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
Alleluia, alleluia!

7 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, alleluia!

Text Information
First Line: For all the saints who from their labors rest
Title: For All the Saints
Author: William Walsham How (1864, alt.)
Meter: 10 10 10 with alleluias
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ; ; ;
Topic: Comfort & Encouragement; Deliverance; Funerals (10 more...)
Tune Information
Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1906)
Meter: 10 10 10 with alleluias
Key: G Major
Copyright: By permission of Oxford University Press

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Rev. 14:13, Heb. 12:1-2
st. 3 = Rev. 2:10
st. 4 = John 17:22
st. 6 = Prov. 4:18
st. 7 = Rev. 7:9-17

"For All the Saints" is considered to be William W. How's (PHH 279) finest hymn text. Originally in eleven stanzas, it was published in Earl Nelson's Hymns for Saints' Days (1864) with the heading, "Saints' Day Hymn. A Cloud of Witnesses. Heb. 12:1." The Psalter Hymnal includes the original stanzas 1-2, 6-8, and 10-11, with modernized pronouns. (Among the stanzas omitted in most hymnals are those that begin "for all the apostles," "for all the evangelists," and "for all the martyrs.")

The text begins with a proclamation of thanksgiving for the saints ("the cloud of witnesses") who confessed Christ and found in him protection and inspiration (st. 1-2). That proclamation is followed by a prayer for Christ's soldiers on earth to be "faithful, true, and bold" (st. 3). At the crux of the text is the confession of a "blest communion" of saints in heaven and on earth (st. 4). Though the holy warfare may be "fierce and long" (st. 5), "all the saints" may take courage from the vision of a victorious church that worships the triune God on that "more glorious day" (st. 6-7).

Liturgical Use:
Traditionally for All Saints Day (the first Sunday in November) and similar church festivals; worship that emphasizes the church as militant and triumphant; funerals.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Ralph Vaughan Williams (PHH 316) composed SINE NOMINE for this text and published it in the English Hymnal in 1906. Vaughan Williams wrote two harmonizations¬–one for unison stanzas and one for choral stanzas. The tune's title means "without name" and follows the Renaissance tradition of naming certain compositions "Sine Nomine" if they were not settings for preexisting tunes.

Equipped with a "walking" bass, SINE NOMINE is a glorious marching tune for this great text. Many consider this tune to be among the finest of twentieth-century hymn tunes (it is, perhaps, the cathedral's equivalent to “When the Saints Go Marching In”). Allowing the "alleluia" phrase to enter before our expectation of it is a typical and very effective Vaughan Williams touch.

Sing the unison and harmony stanzas as given in the Psalter Hymnal. Try assigning the various stanzas to antiphonal groups: a "heavenly" ensemble for stanzas 1-2, an "earthly" ensemble for stanzas 3 and 5, and the entire congregation on stanzas 4, 6, and 7.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
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