One of the things I really miss about having moved away from DC is attending the magnificent liturgies at the Dominican House of Studies, in particular their Tenebrae service during Holy Week, and their All Saints Day Vigil (always followed by a reception that’s delightfully chock-full of friars and Catholic nerds). It was at this vigil, a few years ago, that I first heard “Joy and Triumph Everlasting,” a hymn masterfully translated from Latin by Robert Bridges (he who brought Hopkins’ poems to light), which has gone on to become not only my favorite All Saints hymn, but one of my very favorite hymns, period. It’s hard, very hard, to hear it sung without the transcendent hope of Heaven coming awake within you:
Joy and triumph everlasting
Hath the heav’nly Church on high;
For that pure immortal gladness
All our feast days mourn and sigh:
Yet in death’s dark desert wild
Doth the mother aid her child;
Guards celestial thence attend us,
Stand in combat to defend us.
Here the world’s perpetual warfare
Holds from Heav’n the soul apart;
Legioned foes in shadowy terror
Vex the Sabbath of the heart.
O how happy that estate
Where delight doth not abate!
For that home the spirit yearneth,
Where none languisheth nor mourneth.
There the body hath no torment,
There the mind is free from care,
There is every voice rejoicing,
Every heart is loving there.
Angels in that city dwell;
Them their King delighteth well:
Still they joy and weary never,
More and more desiring ever.
There the seers and fathers holy,
There the prophets glorified,
All their doubts and darkness ended,
In the Light of Light abide.
There the saints, whose memories old
We in faithful hymns uphold,
Have forgot their bitter story
In the joy of Jesus’ glory.
More and more desiring ever. That’s how the song leaves me. It has no space for wimpy cartoon angels plucking harps on fluffy clouds, but rather leaves one with a hint and a hunger for that which eye has not seen and ear has not heard. If you’ve never listened to the song yourself, you can get a very brief sample by clicking here, or I suppose there’s always the MIDI file you can find at Cyberhymnal, though it seems a crime to subject to such treatment a song that does so much to obliterate kitsch visions of Heaven.
How about you, dear readers? Know any other hymns that do justice to the feast of All Saints?