When Morning Gilds the Skies

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This Hymn was translated from German in the mid 1800’s by Edward Casewell, an Oxford clergyman in the Church of England.  Originally written with 28 (yes 28!) verses, usually it is sung today with 4 or 5.  I have included a wider selection below, with a star by the most sung verses: I love a number of things about this hymn, apart from the tune which is great!

Translation: The worship of God will should employ the greatest minds of all generations and cultures.  With language there is a sense of progression in scripture, from the unity of language at Babel, which men employed to replace God and elevate themselves, through the confusion and misunderstanding of many generations, and then, through the gospel, the birth of the church, and the gift of tongues at Pentecost the start of the new reality after Jesus.  The Church becomes the place of unity and diversity where different cultures are called to live and work, worship and weep together – to model a society where our unity embraces our diversity.  The gift of tongues was fascinating, in that rather than making all language uniform, all language the same – instead there was a gift of understanding of all the languages when it came to praising God. (‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Acts 2:7-8)  And in eternity: Every tribe and nation and language and tongue will worship Jesus Christ:  “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ Rev 7:9-10Until then we have to learn languages and translate, even if there are brief moments of supernatural interpretation, and this is why the translation of hymns from one language to another is such a glimpse of heaven for me.  It reminds me of our present richness in culture as the body of Christ, and of Jesus’ intention that eternity will retain the specialness of our languages but dissolve our misunderstandings and confusion.

‘When morning gilds the skies’ – gilding is the ancient craftsmans effect of putting gold or silver onto wood or other metals.  Mirrors and picture frames, even the queens Jubilee barge are gilded.  With gold, you take extremely fine squares of paper-like gold, and lay them down on top of the wood with a paint brush onto a prepared surface, and the wood becomes glittering and rich.  You use real gold for gilding, but just that touch transforms entirely.  It is such incredible poetry, such economy of words to talk about the first catch of sunlight on the clouds and trees – like a tiny layer of gold has transformed the normal stuff of life.  There are those ‘instagram moments’ when in our mobile phone age we are desperate to capture and catch a moment of startling beauty.  In this hymn rather than ‘uploading’ or ‘sharing’ with social media, instead we turn our wonder into worship ‘may Jesus Christ be praised’

All through the day and all through my life: As you scan through all the verses you realise the hymn-writer is covering all aspects of his day and night, and all activities of his life with a prayerful dedication. Morning, Work, prayer, beginning of the day, Sunday mornings,when I sing, when I’m sad or forlorn, at meal times, at the end of the day, when I cant sleep, when ‘evil thoughts molest’, in the depth of the night, in heaven and on earth…in all these situations “May Jesus Christ be Praised”
* When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When you begin the day, O never fail to say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Whene’er the sweet church bell peals over hill and dell,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
O hark to what it sings, as joyously it rings,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

* Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To God, the Word, on high, the host of angels cry,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals, too, upraise their voice in hymns of praise,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this at meals your grace, in every time and place;
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this, when day is past, of all your thoughts the last
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When mirth for music longs, this is my song of songs:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

* When sleep her balm denies, my silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest, with this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

No lovelier antiphon in all high Heav’n is known
Than, Jesus Christ be praised!
There to the eternal Word the eternal psalm is heard:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Let all the earth around ring joyous with the sound:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
In Heaven’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face,
Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore
Shall Jesus Christ be praised!

In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

* Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Categories: Psalms, Hymn of the WeekTags: ,

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