Sacred Music Sunday: For All the Saints

I love big, bold brassy hymns, and anything written by Ralph Vaughan Williams tops my list. One of my favorites is For All the Saints, written to the tune Sine Nomine, which means “without name”. It’s a tribute to all of the unnamed saints. In popular culture and in some religious traditions, a saint is someone extra special and extra holy. However, in the New Testament, Paul frequently reminds us that all followers of Christ are saints. [1] So, this hymn is for you, this hymn is for me, this hymn is for that person in the pews who annoys you, and that religious blogger you disagree with.

All too often, when someone in the church points out an area for improvement or an unintended consequence of a policy or procedure, they’re shut down with a terse “This is Christ’s church, not yours.” However, as we’re reminded, the full name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, yes, it’s Christ’s church. But it’s also our church because we are the saints. And we are the church.

Paul uses the metaphor of a marriage to describe the relationship between Christ and the church. He didn’t use the metaphor of a dictatorship. Christ isn’t sitting somewhere giving orders and expecting us to stand up and salute. He is running toward us with open arms to welcome us into His embrace, ready to give us rest and heal our pain. He has promised to bear our burdens if we cast them on Him [2], but the only way we can cast those burdens on Him is if we identify and articulate what those burdens are.

The rest might not come right away, but it will come. And as we continue to cast those burdens on Christ, we’ll receive the promised rest. And then, as the hymn says, we’ll be able to continually praise God.

From Earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s furthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Aleluia, Aleluia

For All the Saints – Text by William Walsham How – Public Domain
[1] see, e.g., Romans 1:7, greeting the church in Rome and telling them that they are all called to be saints; Romans 15:24-26, telling the people he is on his way to Jerusalem to minister to the saints there; Romans 16:2, telling the church members that he is sending Phoebe the Deacon to them and instructing them to receive her as saints.
[2] see Matthew 11:28-30

Trudy

Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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6 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Nice article! I am also a big Ralph Vaughn Williams fan and I love this hymn.

  2. I recently recommended this to a friend who teaches seminary. She wanted to ask some students who played brass band instruments to perform a number in class, and I said this one would be perfect. With all the changes to church policy and music, I hope the silly restrictions on certain instruments at church will be removed so we can play hymns like this at church as they were intended, instead of substituting piano where brass should be.

  3. Plato's Cave says:

    I must admit that in my 5+ decades of being a baptised member of this church, this is the first time I have seen or heard the response, “This is Christ’s church, not yours.”

  4. MARIANNEPOWER says:

    Thank you. I love this thought. I love the tune of Praise to the Man but I really believe it should be removed. I praise God and Him alone. I struggle with Joseph Smith and some of his actions despite my testimony of the Gospel. But by no means do I want to even appear to worship Joseph Smith.

    • Rachel says:

      I always thought it was odd that we couldn’t sing hail/ave Maria type hymns because it implied worshiping someone besides God even though we sing hymns that hail and praise prophets.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    There are such tremendous truths in these hymns. Thank you for showing us all the different ways we can see them.

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