Sunday, August 19, 2012

Faith of Our Fathers

Here is a hymn that goes out to all of the Fathers in this world!

Title: Faith of Our Fathers

Tune: St. Catherine

Numeric Outline: 88.88.88.

Composer: Henri F. Hemy (1818-1888), James G. Walton, Refrain (1821-1905)

Author: Fredrick W. Faber (1814-1863)

     Fredrick William Faber grew up in England in Calvary  Vicarage in the Anglican Church. Because he was raised in a Vicarage, many assumed that Fredrick was destined for priesthood. It wasn't until 1837 that Faber finished his studies at Balliol College in Oxford, England, and began to take holy orders as a priest of the Church of England. Only six years later, in 1843, Faber received his first placement as a priest in a church in Elton, Huntingdonshire, England and it seemed that his fate was finally sealed as an Anglican Priest. Later that year, to the surprise of many, Faber seceded to the Catholic Church and became a priest for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1859, Faber moved from Elton, Huntingdonshire, to London and started a group of Oratorians also known as the Congregation of Priest of the St. Phillip of Neri. Faber was only one of many different 19th century priests who felt called to leave the Church of England and to join the Roman Catholic Church. While a few of Faber's works were published before he seceded, he is most known for all of his hymns that were published only after he seceded in a collection entitled Jesus and Mary, Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading (published in 1849). In the preface written at the beginning of the collection, Faber makes reference to some of the composers that inspired him, among them were Charles Wesley and all of the hymns published in the Olney Hymns written by John Newton and William Cowper.
     This hymn was originally written in a manner that only suited the Catholic faith, but through a few different changes in text, this hymn is considered wholly universal to any church that would like to use it. This hymn was written to honor those who have suffered Martyrdom in the name of Christ through many centuries. The text is based in part off of Timothy 6: 12 which says to fight the good fight of faith, and when it is your time, accept the eternal life that has been given to you. The final stanza of the hymn, which was written anonymously, makes reference to Hebrews 11, which many have described as "The Acid Test of Christianity." In this passage, the bible instructs Christians to love their enemy as the love their neighbor. Throughout history, it is estimated that over 50 million people have suffered the death by being a Martyr in the name of Christ, following Hebrews 11 and having faith that they land they are in is not nearly as good as the land that they are seeking.
     The tune St. Catherine  was originally set to a Roman Catholic hymn which was published in Hemy's Crown of Jesus Music, which was published in 1864. The original name of the hymn was "St. Catherine, Virgin and Martyr." The Hymn only had ten lines of text which were set to 16 measures of music, until Walton re-arranged the tune adding 8 more measures to the piece and re-publishing it in a collection entitled Plain Song Music For the Holy Communion (published in 1874.

The Text:

1) Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene'er we hear that glorious word!

(Refrain) Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

2) Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
And blest would be their children's fate,
If they, like them should die for thee:

(Refrain) Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

(3) Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.

(Refrain) Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

(4) Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

(Refrain) Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

My Take on the Hymn:

     This hymn seems to be a promise to God that we will stay true to His word no matter how grave the situation is that we are in. Sometimes I feel that God looks after us and says something along the lines of "Now look at the mess you got yourself into!" But he still will help us out of the situation regardless of what it is. As Christians, we are told  to love God and Christ no matter what the cost, and, if we do, we are promised eternal life in heaven. The first stanza seems to promise that even when things are grim and are looking bleak, we will still be glad to hear the word of God and the promises that he has made to us. The second stanza mentions being chained and imprisoned on Earth. Even though we may be imprisoned on Earth, as long as we have the word of God, our hearts will always be free. This verse also has a message to the descendants of the people that choose to become Martyrs by telling them that by their fathers dying, they will be set free eternally. The Third stanza promises that we will stay true to God until we have won all nations and "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Phillipians 2: 10-11). The fourth and final stanza is the hardest verse because it makes the singer promise to love his enemies as they love their neighbor. This challenge is not easy for anyone who has ever tried it, but we are called to do our best, and in the end, that is all that God really wants of us. For us to do our best to follow Him and His ways, and do it all in the name of God and Christ.

The Hymn:

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