Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

A magnificent hymn for All Saints - thanks to Cyberhymnal:

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright Seraphs, Cherubim and Thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluya!
Cry out Dominions, Princedoms, Powers,
Virtues, Archangels, Angels’ choirs,
Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya!

O higher than the Cherubim,
More glorious than the Seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluya!
Thou Bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya!

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye Patriarchs and Prophets blest,
Alleluya, Alleluya!
Ye holy Twelve, ye Martyrs strong,
All Saints triumphant, raise the song
Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya!

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluya, Alleluya!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya!

Note that the first stanza invokes the nine choirs of angels - we often forget (though the proper texts at Office of this feast bear it out*) that All Saints' Day includes the angels in the celebration of all the elect in heaven.  For the majority of the inhabitants of heaven are not human, but are the happy incorporeal spirits - one may call them with justice the true extraterrestrials, but never aliens, for it is our high calling to attain to their everlasting fellowship in God's beatific sight.

(* The magnificent Magnificat antiphon Angeli, Archangeli - the only such anthem in the whole Breviary naming all nine choirs, BTW - at 1st Vespers; the 2nd antiphon at Lauds and both Vespers, also used at Terce; the 2nd stanza of both Office hymns, the one at Vespers and Matins - invoking the nine choirs - and the one at Lauds; little chapter at both Vespers, Lauds and Terce; Pss 8 and 33 at Matins; Lessons i-iii and Responsories i-iii at Matins - these setting the scene of the saints and angels together at worship in heaven, and our calling to join them.)

The second stanza is of course the famous Byzantine Megalynarion put into verse:

Ἄξιόν ἐστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς μακαρίζειν Σε τὴν Θεοτόκον, τὴν ἀειμακάριστον καὶ παναμώμητον καὶ Μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν. Τὴν τιμιωτέραν τῶν Χερουβὶμ καὶ ἐνδοξοτέραν ἀσυγκρίτως τῶν Σεραφίμ· τὴν ἀδιαφθόρως Θεὸν Λόγον τεκοῦσαν, τὴν ὄντως Θεοτόκον, Σὲ μεγαλύνομεν.

(It is meet indeed to bless thee, the Theotokos, the ever-blessed and all-blameless and Mother of our God.  More honourable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, who without corruption didst bear God the Word, the true Theotokos, thee we magnify.)

The third invokes "the Holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs" with all the Saints triumphant in eternal rest (the author of the hymn being High Church Anglican, no doubt he was alluding to their mention thus in early and also in later Anglo-Catholic versions of the Prayer for the Church Militant).

The fourth is our invitation to join in the worship of heaven, singing doxology to God the Trinity.  Amen!

No comments: