All Saints’ Day presents music both triumphant and peaceful—both exuberant and meditative. This is fitting as we remember with joy our loved ones departed in the faith who now join in the unending song around the throne of the Lamb of God in heaven, even while their physical bodies slumber in the grave awaiting the day of the resurrection of all flesh.
The hymns for this day communicate both victorious celebration for and solemn remembrance of our departed Christian brethren.
The ENTRANCE HYMN, “For All the Saints” (677) is by William W. How (1823-1897) published in 1864, originally in eleven stanzas. Stanzas 1-3 contain the strong images about the confession of Jesus, their Rock, Fortress, and Might. Stanzas 4-6 are peaceful as we recall the blest communion and calming rest of heaven’s paradise. Finally stanzas 7-8 are jubilant again, as the hymn sings of the return of Christ at the last day, ending with glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Oh, How Blest are Ye Whose Toils are Ended” (The Lutheran Hymnal 589) is by Simon Dach (1605-1659). A teacher of philosophy and theology in Königsberg, he was a gifted poet. The death of a close friend in 1648 caused him to turn from secular to sacred poetry. He was a prolific hymn writer in his final decade, writing over 150 texts. The tune was written for this text, printed in the Stuttgart Choralbuch of 1744. In this hymn, Christians on earth sing of the saints in heaven with hopeful, expectant longing: “Ye, meanwhile, are in your chambers sleeping, Quiet and set free from all our weeping; No cross or sadness there can hinder your untroubled gladness.” The introduction to the hymn is a contemplative setting by Paul Bouman (1918-2019).
The VOLUNTARY is a setting of this hymn by Richard Resch (b. 1947), who served as kantor of Concordia Theological Seminary and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church—Fort Wayne. In this setting, he brings in motives from J.S. Bach’s Cantata 106, “God’s Time is the Best Time.” This draws a musical connection between the theological themes of that cantata, written for a funeral in 1707, and the hymn “Oh, How Blest are Ye.”
The PRELUDE is a partita by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) on “All Men Living Are But Mortal” (The Lutheran Hymnal 601), in German “Alle Menschen Müssen Sterben.” This hymn by Johann Georg Albinus (1624-1679) has been described “a pearl of the Evangelical treasury of song.” It was written for the funeral of Paul von Hessenberg in Leipzig on June 1, 1652.
- All men living are but mortal, Yea all flesh must fade as grass;
Only through death’s gloomy portal To eternal life we pass.
This frail body here must perish Ere the heavenly joys it cherish,
Ere it gain the free reward For the ransomed of the Lord.
- Therefore, when my God doth choose it, Willingly I’ll yield my life
Nor will grieve that I should lose it, For with sorrows it was rife.
In my dear Redeemer’s merit Peace hath found my troubled spirit,
And in death my comfort this: Jesus’ death my source of bliss.
- Jesus for my sake descended My salvation to obtain;
Death and hell for me are ended, Peace and hope are now my gain;
Yea, with joy I leave earth’s sadness For the home of heavenly gladness,
Where I shall forever see God, the Holy Trinity.
- There is joy beyond our telling, Where so many saints have gone;
Thousands, thousands, there are dwelling, Worshipping before the throne,
There the Seraphim are shining, Evermore in chorus joining:
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord! Triune God, for aye adored!”
- Patriarchs of sacred story And the prophets there are found;
The apostles, too, in glory On twelve seats are there enthroned.
All the saints that have ascended Age on age, through time extended,
There in blissful concert sing Hallelujahs to their King.
- O Jerusalem, how glorious Dost thou shine, thou city fair!
Lo, I hear the tones victorious Ever sweetly sounding there.
Oh, the bliss that there surprises! Lo, the sun of morn now rises,
And the breaking day I see That shall never end for me.
- Yea, I see what here was told me, See that wondrous glory shine,
Feel the spotless robes enfold me, Know a golden crown is mine.
Thus before the throne so glorious Now I stand a soul victorious,
Gazing on that joy for aye That shall never pass away.