Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vespers: The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended

This is "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is ended by The Rev. John Ellerton 1826 – 1893), an English hymn writer and hymnologist.

This is the official evening hymn of the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The hymn was selected to be sung as part of the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and was also sung at the Hong Kong handover ceremony a century later. The hymn has an enduring popularity, coming in third place in a BBC Songs of Praise poll of favourite hymns in 2005.

Ellerton wrote this evening hymn  in 1870 for A Liturgy for Missionary Meetings. The text's dominant theme is the growing worldwide fellowship of the Christian church and its unbroken, unceasing offering of praise and prayer to God. Even though Victoria may have chosen the hymn to symbolize the British Empire, stanza 4 wisely reminds us that earthly kingdoms pass away–only the kingdom of God stands and grows forever.

Ellerton borrowed the hymn's first line from an anonymous text in Church Poetry (1843). He then revised his text for the hymn's publication in the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge's Church Hymns (1871), of which he was coeditor. Possibly prompted by the suitability of the worldwide church image as a symbol for the British Empire "on which the sun never sets," Queen Victoria chose this hymn to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Victoria's use of the hymn assured its popularity in the English-speaking world.

1. The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall hallow now our rest.

2. We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

3. As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

4. The sun, that bids us rest, is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

5. So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away:
But stand, and rule, and grow for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

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