Updated: May 3, 2020
French: A toi la gloire
Isaiah 25:8; Romans 8:37;
Text: Edmond Budry, (1854-1932) Tune: Georg Friederich Handel (1685-1759)
1. Thine be the glory, risen, conqu'ring Son:
Endless is the vict'ry thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.
R/ Thine be the glory, risen, conqu'ring Son;
Endless is the vict'ry thou o’er death hast won.
2. Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
3. No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conqu'rors, thro' thy deathless love:
Bring us safe thro' Jordan to thy home above.
Tr. Richard Birch Hoyle 1925
Edmond Budry, (1854-1932) is said to have written this hymn after the death of his
first wife. He must have needed to write the hymn, especially the last line as he
thought of her dying and his own. When I was a college student, I worked in an old
people’s home during the summer, the night shift. We were always wary about 4:30.
The angel of death seemed to prefer the early morning hours.
One morning, a woman buzzed me. She was a prim and proper lady. Not a hair on
her head was out of control. She would buzz every morning promptly at 5:30 to
have me help her put on her stockings and get ready for the day. But this morning
she rang at 4:30. I knew something was wrong and ran to her room.
“Help me,” she said. “I feel like I am dying.” I called for others as she tried to get her
robe fixed. She wanted to keep sitting up and asked me to help. She was a tiny thing,
but against death’s force, my strength was useless. She asked for her comb and
brush for when the ambulance came. Her last cry was a cry of rage, she had lost
control of her bladder. Then she lay flat.
When the ER people came, I put her comb and brush on the stretcher and the
orderly said, “She’s not going to need that where she is going.” And they rolled her
Death had visited the room and taken its prey. I had been locked in a brief battle
with it, and lost. I instinctively understood its power when I was trying to push her
body up. I wasn't prepared to utter words of comfort, or speak the gospel. She was
raging against death, the dying of the light, and its indignities. And I hadn’t known
what to say. The next few days I was stunned. As a Christian, and a pastor’s
daughter, I knew I should have had something to say. I had been mute, maybe with
terror or unbelief or what?
There was something grand and awful about it at the same time. As I had come to
know her, it was clear that she wanted to be in control of every part of her life and
had lived her life as though she were. Now at last, she had met her match. And so
I have heard people say they are not afraid to be dead, but fear dying. We all need
help to get safely across the Jordan as per our hymn. We cannot get across on our
own powers. Still, we must cross over. Christians go under the waters of that river,
like Christian does in Pilgrim’s Progress as he crosses. We know we will leave
everything in this life, but go under believing he will meet us. This hymn prepares us
for that last journey. It is what Easter is all about. Not surprisingly many say they
want to hear this hymn on their way over. Budry has given us words to rehearse for
that meeting, a glorious one, every time we sing it. “Endless is the vict’ry/Thou o’er
death hast won!”
For many people this hymn is almost as important at Easter as “Christ the Lord is
Risen” or “Easter Morrow Stills our Sorrow.” Budry, a Swiss pastor, wrote it to the tune “See, the Conquering Hero Comes,” from Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus. Clearly the tune has a great deal to do with its success, but the text matches it nicely. From the beginning the tune was well known and loved. John Wesley spoke of it as a favorite and Ludwig van Beethoven wrote Twelve Variations on it for cello and piano. The British Royal Family uses it at their Easter Sunday services. As the hymnody scholars say, it is a very happy wedding of tune and text.
Songs of Praise
Trumpets over Egersund—a virtual performance from Sunday
Beethoven’s Twelve Variations “See, the Conquering Hero Comes.”