HYMN 149 Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart
Text: Edward H. Plumptre (1821-1891). Tune: Arthur Henry Messiter (1834-1916)
1. Rejoice, O pure in heart, Rejoice, give thanks, and sing; Your festal banner wave on high, The cross of Christ your King. R/Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks, and sing!
2. Bright youth and snow-crowned age, Both men and women, raise On high your free, exulting song, Declare God's wondrous praise. R/
3. Still lift your standard high, Still chanting as you go, From youth to age, by night and day, In gladness and in woe. R/
4. At last the march shall end; The wearied ones shall rest, The pilgrims reach their home at last, Jerusalem the blest. R/
5. Praise God, who reigns on high, The Lord whom we adore: The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, One God forevermore. R/
How about a big thumping all stops out processional? This hymn by Plumptre is one of those from the time when Anglicans were giving the church impressive thrilling processional/recessional hymns. Pomp and circumstance would be fun just now.
I have always wondered about the “pure in heart” phrase. Is it possible to have a pure heart? Jesus blesses the “pure in heart” in the Beatitudes of his Sermon on the Mount saying that they shall see God. Jesus must have known of some. What about the rest of us? I am not sure I know anyone with a pure heart. I certainly do not qualify. It is from the heart, Jesus says, elsewhere, that much that is unwholesome comes. That I know to be true.
Some hymnal editors have disliked that phrase and substituted “pilgrim throng” for the “pure in heart.” It works metrically and removes the difficulty. But the difficulty in Scripture and often hymns is where the good stuff is. A bit of a struggle may bear fruit.
So, on singing this as I start down the aisle with the choir and others processing, will I wonder whether or not I am pure of heart? It is a good thing to wonder because on reflection it should make me cry with David in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Those who met the Lord in Scripture would often kneel and cry out that even his very presence made them aware they were sinners. "Depart from me," Peter cries when he sees the miracle of the fish roiling in the net, "For I am a sinful man." From there he leaves everything and follows Jesus. Is Peter's heart pure? While he gets a lot of things wrong, we know he loves the Lord. And, the story goes, every morning for the rest of his life when he heard a rooster crowing, he would be grief-stricken. He began every day repenting for his denial of Jesus. He wanted a pure heart. Jesus came to cleanse our hearts and make them pure.
Cleansed and forgiven, we can, sinners all, young or old, women or men, march on as pilgrims through gladness and woe, eager to have our journey end in Jerusalem the blest. The power of the singing and instruments that accompany us are a hint of the glory we will see. A blessed Sunday!
This was written for a choir festival in Peterborough Cathedral in England, for May 1865. Plumptre was an exceptional scholar and preacher who served at Oxford, and taught practical theology at King’s College. He translated many Greek and Latin classics, In addition he wrote poetry and hymnody. This first appeared in his book of verse, Lazarus, and Other Poems, in 1864. It was published in the Appendix to Hymns: Ancient and Modern in 1868. It was set to music by Messiter who emigrated from England to be organist at St. James the Less Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, and then moved to Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan. He brought the tradition of English cathedral music with its pomp and dignity to that iconic church where George Washington and many other founders worshiped. Messiter added the refrain.
LINKS Choir, congregation, organ at Coral Ridge
Metro Singers, Hyattsville MD https://youtu.be/w_GBKSqtgvI
Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA https://youtu.be/YRXY4waiCZQ
Garret Martin plays Albert Travis’ Toccatto on the Organ at Coral Ridge https://youtu.be/Rh-ZAp9I454