Sunday, March 31, 2024

How John Mason Neale helps us celebrate Easter

This morning, for family reasons we ranged afar from our normal parish, worshipping at an Anglo-Catholic ACNA parish. (Yes, they exist outside of Texas). The parish doesn’t have (and, in my lifetime, rarely has had) a choir. The music was provided by the organist and congregational singing.

Of the four hymns from Hymnal 1940, two were translations byJohn Mason Neale. This made me wonder how many Easter hymns are by Neale.

When I got out of church, my library of American and English hymnals was miles away. So I started with Hymnal 1940, of which five of the 17 Easter hymns were Neale translations. Later on, I found that four were also in Hymnal 1982 and Book of Common Praise 2017:

  • 93: “Thou hallowed chosen morn of praise”
  • 94: “Come ye faithful, raise the strain” (H82: 200; BCP17: 138)
  • 96: “The day of resurrection! Earth tell it all abroad” (H82: 210; BCP17: 123)
  • 98: “That Easter day with joy was bright”  (H82: 193; BCP17: 134)
  • 99: “O sons and daughters let us sing” (H82: 203; BCP17: 142)
From my forthcoming book chapter on Neale, I know that the first four are also among of the 28 Neal translations in Hymnal 1940 that are translations from the first millennium. For H82 and BCP17, it is 3/21 and 3/15 respectively.

The first three are 8th century texts attributed to St. John of Damascus, and are among 10 from his book Hymns of the Eastern Church that were republished in Hymnal 1940. The fourth does not list Neale in the hymnal, but in The Hymnal 1940 Hymnal Companion, the editor concedes that the 1940 version is “based on that of Neale’s Hymnal Noted”. (For those not familiar with Hymnal Noted, I posted a longer article on the influential Neale-led compilation back in 2018).

The fifth hymn is a translation of a 15th century text by Franciscan monk Jean Tisserand, a translation published in Neale’s compilation Medieval Hymns and Sequences. That was our closing hymn this morning, soon after we sang “The day of resurrection” for communion.

So more than 150 years after his death, Neale’s translations are still influencing everyday worship by American Anglicans.

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