TODAY is Palm Sunday, and I can’t do better than repeat the story about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem to meet the barbaric fate he knew awaited him as I told it last year.
Jesus has been travelling through Judea and Galilee, preaching, healing the sick and performing miracles. Word has spread far and wide, and crowds follow him everywhere. They are starting to say he is the long-awaited Messiah. In Jerusalem, the Pharisees, the religious elders, are jealous and worried. They start working on ways to get rid of him.
Fully aware of the Pharisees’ hostility, Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The disciples are amazed that he is taking the risk, but Thomas says: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.’ On the way Jesus tells them what is going to happen – that he will be arrested, scourged and crucified, yet will rise again after three days.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrives in Bethany, about a mile and half from Jerusalem. There he eats with Mary, thought by some authorities to be Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
Next day Jesus tells a couple of the disciples where they can find a donkey and asks them to bring it. Riding it as a symbol of peace and humility, he slowly heads for Jerusalem. Excited crowds line the route, throwing down their clothes and palm fronds in front of the donkey. Others wave palm fronds.
They shout: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!’
The Pharisees say among themselves: ‘We cannot stop this man. The world has gone after him.’
When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the whole city is in uproar and people are asking each other: ‘Who is this?’ His followers reply: ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee!’
Last year’s hymn for Palm Sunday was Ride on, Ride on in Majesty; today’s is All Glory, Laud and Honour.
This is a translation of a Latin hymn Gloria, laus et honor, written in 820 by Theodulf of Orléans. He had been bishop of Orléans but became involved in a power struggle after Louis the Pious succeeded Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Louis suspected that Theodulf supported an Italian rival to the throne and had him confined to a monastery. During this time Theodulf wrote Gloria, laus et honor for Palm Sunday. According to legend, Louis heard Theodulf singing it and was so inspired that he released him and ordered that the hymn be sung thereafter on every Palm Sunday.
It was translated into English by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), who is also known for his transation of Good King Wenceslas, which I wrote about here.
Here are the words:
All glory, laud and honour
to thee, Redeemer, King!
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel,
thou David’s royal Son,
who in the Lord’s Name comest,
the King and Blessed One. Refrain
The company of angels
are praising thee on high;
and mortal men and all things
created make reply. Refrain
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before thee went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before thee we present. Refrain
To thee before thy passion
they sang their hymns of praise;
to thee, now high exalted,
our melody we raise. Refrain
Thou didst accept their praises;
accept the prayers we bring,
who in all good delightest,
thou good and gracious King. Refrain
In 1854 Neale co-founded the Society of Saint Margaret, an order of women in the Church of England dedicated to nursing the sick. Many Protestants of the time were suspicious of the restoration of Anglican religious orders. In 1857, Neale was attacked at a funeral of one of the Sisters, about which he wrote to the Times. The sister had died of scarlet fever and was to be buried in the family vault at All Saints, Lewes, with the service conducted by the incumbent, her father, the Rev John Scobell (who turned out to be fairly useless). Soon a crowd gathered outside.
Neale wrote: ‘The service in the church was read by Mr Hutchinson, of West Firle; the uproar, hooting, and yelling in the churchyard –almost evidently preconcerted, and that with considerable skill – being quite alarming. With some difficulty we made our way to the vault; it is not attached to the church, but is hollowed out of a kind of bank on the north side of the churchyard. Mr Hutchinson entered the vault, and the service was there concluded; the mob every moment growing fiercer and more threatening. They made way, however, for Mr Scobell and his family, as well as for Mr Hutchinson. As the former was passing I stepped up to him and said, “Mr Scobell, you see how threatening the mob is; will you not protect the Sisters?” He bowed, and passed on; and that, be it remembered, when his daughter had died in their arms only five days previously.
‘While this was passing the lights were either extinguished, or so flashed in our faces as to make a confusion worse than darkness. There was a cry of “Do your duty!” “Now the performance is come off!” and a rush was immediately made upon us. The impression of all of us is that some at least of the bearers and light-men were the ring-leaders of the mob. But the strangest part of all was that men, certainly in the garb of gentlemen, could stand by and see ladies dashed this way and that, their veils dragged off, and their dresses torn, and, far from rendering the least assistance, could actually excite the dregs of the rabble to further violence. I was myself knocked down, and for a moment, while under the feet of the mob, gave myself up for lost. We were borne along into the street, Mr Scobell having quietly gone home, and taking no further interest in the matter.
‘Some of the sisters took refuge in the schoolmaster’s house; some, with myself, in a little public-house called the King’s Head. Round this inn the mob soon gathered. At last, by the advice of the police, I made my way across gardens and over walls to the station. A larger force having been now got together were sent back with a fly to the King’s Head; and thus, after some hard fighting on their part, we were enabled to return to East Grinstead by the next train, the rabble besetting the station to the very last.’
The whole letter can be read here.
The commonly used tune was composed in 1603 by Melchior Teschner (1584-1635) a German cantor, composer and theologian. A common harmonisation which appears in hymnals was written in 1861 by William Henry Monk.
Here it is sung by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
Cliff Richard recorded it in 1967 for his Good News album.
Here is an orchestral version from the Moody Church in Chicago. I don’t know who arranged it.
And here is the organist Rodney Jantzi.
Finally, an up-to-the-minute performance from the Grimsby Minster Virtual Choir.
Classics on Sunday returns in two weeks.