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Reading the Hymns: All Glory, Laud, and Honour

March 27th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Notice the Oxford comma and the British spelling of 'Honor'?

Well, there's a reason for that.  This quintessential Palm Sunday hymn was originally written by Theodulf of Orleans, an 8th century Bishop and advocate of public education.  But it was translated into English by John Mason Neale, a classicist and member of the Oxford Movement, which wanted to get behind the Protestant Reformation and move Anglicanism toward full communion with Roman Catholicism.

All glory, laud, and Honor to thee, Redeemer, King,

to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Where Theodulph says that childish lips (in my amateur reading of the Latin) ring out Hosanna's, Heale attributes those voices to those of children.

Either way, there's an interesting theological point at work here.  Theodulph combines two passages in Matthew--the most obvious one is 21:9, where Jesus enters into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion.  But only a few chapters earlier, Jesus had exhorted his disciples to become like little children in their belief.  Theodulph melds the two events, suggesting that it is those who have attained faith like children that are able to herald him as King.

1. Thou art the King of Israel, thou David's royal Son,

who in the Lord's name comest, the King and Blessed One.

Theodulph is no anti-Semite.  He understands that 'salvation is of the Jews,' and that the King of Israel is the King for all people.  And so that leads the litany of praises.

2. The company of angels are praising thee on high,

and we with all creation in chorus make reply.

But in so far as Jesus is the King of Israel, he is king of all creation.  The restoration of creation's unity is a restoration that occurs in and through the worship of David's royal Son.

3. The people of the Hebrews with palms before thee went;

our prayer and praise and anthems before thee we present.

But while Theodulph is no anti-Semite, he also is not Jewish.  Here we see continuity and discontinuity with the 'chosen nation.'  As they went before him with palms prior to his entry to Jerusalem, so we come before Him with singing.

4. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise;

to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise.

It's such a good point, it bears repeating.  At least superficially.  But it's worth pointing out that Theodulph highlights Christ in his ascension, skipping over the events of His death and resurrection (though assuming them).  The most helpful way of looking at this is through the previous contrasts between the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, as it was expressed in Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, and the Christian retrospective on the events and focus on the ascension.  What divides Jews and Christians is precisely the vantage point we take on the resurrection.

5. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring,

who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King.

Theodulph emphasizes that God is a God for all people (who in all good delightest), and not only for the chosen people who praised him during his entry into Jerusalem.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.