HYMN 110 All Creatures of our God and King
Danish: Almægtige og kære Gud
Swedish: Tack, gode Gud, för allt some finns
Psalm 148; Matthew 10:9;
Text: St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) Tune: Cologne, 1623 arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams
1 All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing: Alleluia! Alleluia! O burning sun with golden beam And silver moon with softer gleam: R/ Oh, praise him! Oh, praise him! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 2 O rushing wind and breezes soft, O clouds that ride the winds aloft: Oh, praise him! Alleluia! O rising morn, in praise rejoice, O lights of evening, find a voice. R/
3 O flowing waters, pure and clear, Make music for your Lord to hear. Oh, praise him! Alleluia! O fire so masterful and bright, Providing us with warmth and light, R/ 4 Dear mother earth, who day by day Unfolds rich blessings on our way, Oh, praise him! Alleluia! The fruits and flow'rs that verdant grow, Let them his praise abundant show. R/
5 O ev'ryone of tender heart, Forgiving others, take your part, Oh, praise him! Alleluia! All you who pain and sorrow bear, Praise God and lay on him your care. R/ 6 And you, most kind and gentle death, Waiting to hush our final breath, Oh, praise him! Alleluia! You lead to heav'n the child of God, Where Christ our Lord the way has trod. R/
7 Let all things their Creator bless And worship God in humbleness. O praise him! Alleluia! Oh, praise the Father, praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, Three-in-One, R/
Tr. William Draper (1855-1933)
The guide said, as we were making ready to descend down toward the tomb of St. Francis, “Look at the faces of the pilgrims here as they see his tomb.” It was a steep descent, no elevator, just stairs down into the crypt. As we approached, we could see the guide was right. The faces of the pilgrims were rapt, and shining with devotion. St. Francis, his life and teachings, were still alive and living among the people, maybe even if their devotion to his faith was less fervent.
People like St. Francis come along but rarely in this world. The son of a wealthy silk merchant, something of a playboy who was uncertain as to his place in life, Francis tried several careers, from his father's business to partying to soldiering. None of them captivated him. Then one day in 1204 while at war he had a vision that took him back to his home town of Assisi where he turned toward things spiritual. On a pilgrimage to Rome he began begging along with the poor outside the Basilica of St. Peter. On his return home, just outside of Assisi, he had a vision in which Jesus Christ appeared to him and said, “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.”
His father was outraged at the loss of his son to Lady Poverty. Francis publicly renounced his father and his inheritance, giving away even the clothes off his back, from his father, to the poor. He began preaching and attracted a following that would soon result in the Order of Franciscans. In 1209 he heard a sermon on Matthew 10:9, Jesus’ sending of his disciples out to bring the good news to the people without taking anything along, only his message. He went out, without anything, and preached repentance. His motto became “To follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." His movement grew exponentially.
Very soon the order was approved by Pope Innocent III in 1210. Francis later established the Order of Poor Clares, an order for women, and then a Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance.
His following grew to such an extent that he became one of the more powerful people in Europe. In 1219, he traveled to Cairo to speak with the Sultan and see if he could convert him and end the Crusades. That he would try shows the place he had achieved in the church and the world.
St. Francis retired more and more from his active work. For Christmas 1223, he built the first creche, or manger scene, with live animals so people could see in the flesh how the birth of Jesus looked. In 1224 during a vision, he received the stigmata of Jesus, the first known person to be marked by the wounds of Christ.
This hymn, known as the Canticle of the Sun, based on Psalm 148, is believed to have been written in 1225 by Francis. On October 3, 1226 he died listening to a brother reading Psalm 140. By then he was blind and in poor health.
His simple, but radical, message, as could be expected, gave the church authorities problems, but they really had to let his movement flourish, which it did, making the Franciscans a successful and wealthy order. One of the ironies of history!
St. Francis' message of love for the poor and all creation connects with people everywhere. This hymn is a picture of his piety—loving all creation and regarding all of it as family. It resonates with those who have a special love for creation and the environment. His saint's day, October 4, has become a day for the blessings of the animals in churches far and wide. His reverence for all things living is a salutary lesson for us all to learn. We are part of creation, and should give thanks that we, with "All Creatures of our God and King," can sing praises to the Lord.
William Draper, a rector in the Church of England, paraphrased Francis’ hymn into English and set it to a tune. He intended for it to be used at a children’s Pentecost service. Ralph Vaughan Williams took the text and set it to a German tune "Lasst uns erfreuen" from 1623. It appeared in the English Hymnal 1906 which Vaughan Williams edited. As they say, the rest is history. It is now among the most favorite hymns of all.
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