…whatever those are.
Why don’t we ever sing the old favorites?
Why don’t we ever sing hymns that I know?
We never sing my favorite hymn.
Before we go down this blog road, let’s acknowledge and accept that the Episcopal Church is a Church of converts from every faith tradition that we can name.
“Amazing grace” is one person’s old favorite. “O God, our help in ages past” is another person’s. “Jerusalem the golden” is another. “Let us break bread together” is another. “For all the saints” is another. And on and on.
As the pastoral musician in this parish, I am happy to announce that Christ the King Sunday may just be your Sunday!
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, commonly known as the Feast of Christ the King or Christ the King Sunday, is a relatively late addition to the Christian Year. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast day in his 1925 encyclical as a response to growing secularism in the world.
Many world-wide Protestant denominations have adopted this Sunday feast day: Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, even Congregationalists and Moravians. Those denominations who use the Revised Common Lectionary normally celebrate Christ the King on the last Sunday before Advent.
Making the point that Christ the King Sunday might be viewed as patriarchal or non-inclusive, some denominations have renamed the Sunday feast day “The Reign of Christ,” which sounds like a fair, updated name to me.
As I said, if big, majestic, Protestant hymns are your favorites, this Sunday is your Sunday.
The 10:30 Sunday morning service opens with “Crown him with many crowns.” Enough said, right? This year we will close with “All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,” a favorite hymn tune of this parish (Engelberg), complete with soprano descant on the last stanza.
At Communion we will sing “Let all mortal flesh keep silence,” which I might call the Episcopal Communion national anthem, at least for anyone who grew up on The Hymnal 1940.
You will notice the lectionary readings tie all of this together, along with the Parish Choir’s anthem at the Offertory, the Harold W. Friedell setting of the familiar text, “King of glory, King of peace.”
But for my Christ the King favorite, I suggest what I believe to be one of the most significant texts in the entire hymnal. If ever I am asked to preach a sermon, this hymn text would make a marvelous subject.
Based upon Matthew’s account of Christ’s passion (Matthew 27, in particular), we often sing this hymn on Palm/Passion Sunday.
Though author Samuel Crossman (1624-1683) was an English minister, royal chaplain, and Dean of Bristol Cathedral, scholars have likened his sacred writings to those of George Herbert and other metaphysical poets.
The depth of this text speaks for itself, which I gladly offer in full here as a devotional read for this week:
My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh, and die?
He came from his blest throne salvation to bestow,
But men made strange, and none the longed-for Christ would know.
But O my friend, my friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend.
Sometimes they strew his way, and his strong praises sing,
Resounding all the day hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath, and for his death they thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run, he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these themselves displease, and ‘gainst him rise.
They rise, and needs will have my dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save, the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet steadfast he to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might free.
In life no house, no home my Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb but what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heaven was his home; but mine the tomb wherein he lay.
Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine:
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
Read Pope Pius XI's encyclical here.
Read more about Christ the King Sunday here.
Photo credit: Christ the King icon, public domain.