The Church’s one foundation

Just about every Sunday morning something in the service at church comes as a pleasant surprise or a special joy.  Often it is music by Byrd, Bach, Victoria, or Palestrina sung by the choir, but just as often it is a hymn.  This past Sunday was no exception.  The special joy came in the form of the processional hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” number 525 in the Hymnal 1982.

Often used at confirmation and ordination services, it has another special meaning for me and Jonnie Sue.  We have used it in the funeral services for our parents and my brother.  It is the fifth verse that makes it seem especially appropriate:

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord give us grace that we
like them the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.

I can seldom get through it without tears welling up.  It is a hymn of wide ranging imagery, each verse featuring a different facet of the church: its creation by Jesus (vs 1), its oneness over all the earth (vs 2), its struggle with discord and its faithfulness nonetheless (vs 3), its longing for peace and the beatific vision – “the vision glorious” (vs 4), and the communion of saints (vs 5).

The hymns are a prime example to me of the value of repetition. The prayers that we say consistently, such as the General Thanksgiving in Morning and Evening Prayer, the Prayer of Humble Access at the beginning of the service of Holy Eucharist (Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid…”), and hymns that I have sung for years, some since childhood, such as “Holy, holy holy! Lord God Almighty” (number 362) are deeply embedded in my consciousness as a result.

What hymns have come to have special meaning for you?  Which have become part of your whole mental and spiritual makeup, the sound track in the background of your mind and life?

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 28-April-2015.

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3 Responses to The Church’s one foundation

  1. The hymn that is most meaningful to me is the hymn of Easter in the Orthodox Church. Xristos Anesti ek nek kron. Tha na ton tha na ton pa ti sas kai tis en tis mi ma si zoe. It is a chant not a hymn and the tones are different than in the West. It is very much a kind of grave chant with aged persons and angels issuing from the tomb of Christ. The gravity and solemnity of the Orthodox Church is different from the Church in the West. It is a great and mighty Crucifixion, you see, that saves us, not simply the agony of one man under torture, but the purity of the Christ throughout, the singlemindedness of love of God.

  2. Jo says:

    Love this, Ron!
    A Mighty Fortress takes me back to my Lutheran church upbringing, although I have trouble with its imagery now.
    My Song is Love Unknown during Holy Week speaks achingly of an intimate relationship with the Jesus who is about to die for me.
    And mostly, Love Divine All Love Excelling is the joyful statement of faith in the God who is with us now and always — and on my funeral list:
    “Finish then my new creation, pure and spotless let us be.
    Let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee.
    Changed fro glory into glory, ’til in heaven we take a place,
    ‘Til we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love and praise!”
    Yowza — just love it.

  3. Christian says:

    Well done, Ron. I particularly love Hymn 599 for the sheer gusto required to sing it.

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