Thine Is The Glory | Postcards from France

(originally published via email on 4/6/19)

A new month.  A new quarter of the year.  A new season here in Minnesota. Here’s hoping we are done with winter’s flaky visitors.

Another new thing? – the theme for SongNotes from the Birds:

During April 2019, our theme is: Postcards from France

Each of our songs this month will be drawn somehow from French history or culture.  There will be a hymn, an art song, and, of course, the hauntingly sweet “La Vie En Rose.”

Release day will be Saturday, April 27. {{UPDATED TO INCLUDE SONG LINK! click here or scroll down}} Just like last month, we will introduce a new song each week with our writings, and then share the recordings with you on release day.  (Click here if you missed last week’s release day for March!)

We start with the hymn.
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by Naomi Bird

First, an admission: I think a lot of hymns are boring.Yes, one can be a church organist, married to a church choir director,  AND think hymns are boring.

That being said, here is admission number two: I feel awkward in contemporary worship services.

You see, playing organ is my very practical solution: If you think it’s boring to sing hymns, and you also are uncomfortable with contemporary worship, what you should do is hide behind a giant wooden box and keep all four appendages occupied on keyboards so you don’t have to figure out what to do with your body during the songs.

Problem solved.
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Me at my protective shield.

In all honesty now, some people’s worship style is one that flourishes with intellectual contemplation. I am in this category. I love the rich history of traditional church music. Every time I look through a hymn text or learn about the music in its original cultural setting, I come away enriched and spiritually moved.

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By reaching into the past we can learn concepts true about our future and live them out in our present.

Whether you are a hand-waiver or a hymnal-holder or humming-only sort of worshipper, I invite you to travel with me a bit today, along the eastern edge of France, through the 130-year-old stanzas of a hymn carried by two and a half centuries of musical heritage, sharing a message that began millennia ago, all about the far off future that gives us hope for today.

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eyeglasses on top of map
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Our travels will begin in the easternmost border of the country.  In fact, it’s technically Switzerland that the present version of this song was born. The town of Lausanne is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, with a view of France across Lake Geneva. It was here that our song received its words.

The hymn is “Thine Is The Glory, Risen, Conquering Son” – a fitting piece for this month in which the Christian church will be remembering the resurrection of Jesus.

Perhaps this focus on the resurrection was an intentional expression of hope in the midst of the author’s grief.

In 1884, after the death of his wife Marie, Edmond L. Budry penned the French words to the already wildly popular tune from Handel’s 1747 oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, in which the chorus sings, “See, the conquering hero comes.” The tune was a favorite of John Wesley,  the 18th century English theologian and evangelist. Beethoven even composed variations based on this tune, so it was clearly a familiar part of the European musical landscape of the 19th century.

Budry’s hymn appeared in a French hymnal published in Lausanne in 1885, and in 1923 it was translated into English for publication in a hymnal that gave it exposure amongst various denominations in Europe and North America.

The hymn has developed strong traditions that vary by location.  In the Netherlands and Spain it is known as a wedding hymn. In Germany it is an Advent hymn called Zion’s Daughter. In England it is commonly sung at funerals as well as being regularly incorporated into royal occasions, including Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday commemoration service and The Last Night of The Proms – the closing of England’s annual eight-week music festival.

(To see a video of this from the 2012 Proms performance, click here and fast-forward to 2:15 to hear the audience whistling along to this tune per the tradition for this festival.)
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I don’t know about you, but I think it’s fair to say that most reasonable individuals dislike death.  Nonetheless, our world is wrought with pain, war, strife, injustice, and disagreement of miniscule and monumental magnitude.

There is not much that any one person can do to bring world peace. This thought can be depressing.  It is easy to despair in the hopelessness around us. Sometimes our weakness is very great, our hope is barely existent, and all signs seem to point to the destruction of goodness in creation.

Alas, the story is not over.  The end will be good. The Winner is Just.

Even before we reach whatever resolution is waiting, there is solid footing to be had in recollections of the resurrection and what it means for the future, as well as – my favorite thought – what it means for RIGHT NOW.

“Thine is the glory” today.
“Endless is the vict’ry” today.
“Jesus meets us” today.
“No more we doubt thee” today.

Eternity isn’t something to sit around and wait for.  We can live with eternally victorious perspectives even right now today.

THE LYRICS  
“Thine Is the Glory”
Words by Edmond L. Budry (1854-1932), translated by R. Birch Hoyle, (1875-1919)Thine is the glory, risen conqu’ring Son;
endless is the vict’ry thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded graveclothes where thy body lay.Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom.
Let his church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for her Lord now liveth: death hath lost its sting.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life!
Life is nought with out thee: aid us in our strife. 
Make us more than conqu’rors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.