The favourite hymn of ‘the greatest scientist since Newton’

Many scientists have been people of faith. Some have even written hymns!

Continuing our series on hymns we sing at St Chrysostom’s, Kenson, Parish Assistant writes about the hymn:

 1 Lord of all being, throned afar,
thy glory flames from sun and star;
centre and soul of every sphere,
yet to each loving heart how near!

 2 Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
cheers the long watches of the night.

 3 Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn,
our noontide is thy gracious dawn,
our rainbow arch thy mercy’s sign;
all, save the clouds of sin, are thine.

 4 Lord of all life, below, above,
whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
before thy ever-blazing throne
we ask no lustre of our own.

 5 Grant us thy truth to make us free,
and kindling hearts that burn for thee,
till all thy living altars claim
one holy light, one heavenly flame.

The hymn was written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., a doctor in Boston who later became the chair of anatomy in Harvard University. His poem “The Last Leaf”, has been praised by Edgar Allan Poe and even Abraham Lincoln.

 From sun and star, to rainbow arch and clouds, the theme of natural phenomena runs through the whole hymn, no wonder it is said to be the favourite hymn of James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish scientist known for his work in electromagnetic radiation. Einstein called Maxwell “the greatest scientist since Newton”.

  In Church we observe creationtide, a time when we pray, rejoice, and give thanks for God’s wonderful creation.  Nature’s beauty is a visible sign of the invisible love and care God has for us. (Psalm 8:3-4) St. Paul described God’s creation as the way of understanding God’s eternal power and divine nature. (Romans 1: 19-20) At the same time, I am always reminded that God not only created all things through Christ, but He is in all things. (Colossians 1: 16-17)

  Now I am going to pose a very challenging question. How can we make sense of God’s love in natural disasters? Can we appreciate the beauty of nature fully if we discount occasions where the nature seems to work against us?

 Prayer: Let us ask God for a thankful heart, so that we can see all the little gifts and blessings from God, and realise that all things come from Him.

 Action: I encourage you all to say “Thank you God, for all your creation” when it is next pouring down with rain!

We usually sing the hymn to the tune DUKE STREET, which can be heard on You Tube, here (to the words of a different hymn, and accompanied by a very large thurible!)

This reflection is the third in a series on our church blog in which members of our ministry team reflect on a hymn to be sung soon at Church. The first was here, and the second here.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
This entry was posted in Anglican and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.