We sing this lovely hymn, to the beautiful tune ST CATHERINE’S COURT, on the Feast of Consecration of our Church – our Church’s birthday. (There is a recording made at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral here)
In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
for the saints who before us have found their reward;
when the shadow of death fell upon them, we sorrowed,
but now we rejoice that they rest in the Lord.
In the morning of life, and at noon, and at even,
they were gathered to heav’n from our worship below;
but not till God’s love, at the font and on the altar,
had clothed them with grace for the way they should go.
These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
and dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
and still they were seeking the city of God.
Sing praise, then, and thanks that God’s love here has found them
whose journey is ended, whose perils are past;
they believed in the light; and its glory is round them,
where the clouds of earth’s sorrows are lifted at last.
Written by William Henry Draper, a priest in late 19th Century Shrewsbury and then in Leeds. Draper is particularly known for his translation of the Canticle of St Francis as All creatures of our God and King.
It is thought that Draper might have based his words for In our day of thanksgiving on this passage from Hebrews “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11.13-16)
There is a poignancy as we give thanks for past worshippers and rejoice in our fellowship with them. “These stones…” remind us that whilst we are here on earth, here amongst the stones which make up our Church, there is a place of light where “the clouds of earth’s sorrows as lifted at last”. We give thanks for the past, and we look towards our future hope.
At St C’s, we are part of all “strangers and pilgrims” seeking the city of God, and together we unite in the Mass, as we break bread and become united not only with Christ but with one another.
Two questions: What do you want to especially give thanks for?
Who has gone before you and influenced your Christian faith, that you give thanks for?
A Suggested Action: Volunteer to help in some way at Church – becoming more and more a living stone in God’s church.