Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle

Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle

Hymn of the Month for March

I (Pastor Cowell) love the hymns of our hymnal.  I love talking about them, teaching and learning from them, and singing them (not a little out of tune) to the praise and glory of God.  It is to this end that I've begun a new tradition with our friends at St. John's Burt called the "Hymn of the Month."  We sing one hymn every Sunday of a given month at some point during the Divine Service.  I also introduce each new Hymn of the Month  with a devotion in the bulletin.

I would like to share the joy I receive from the hymns of the Church with you at Trinity (and any other readers) by publishing my Hymn of the Month devotions on the Pastor's Pen.  Although you won't be singing the hymns of these devotions four or five weeks in a row at Trinity, you will likely sing them at some point in the Church Year.  
Stained glass window at Trinity Lutheran Church, Algona Iowa, LCMS.  Photo by Erik M. Lunsford, June 10, 2018.
© 2018 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Our “hymn of the month” for the month of March is written by a highly skilled and beloved poet and hymnographer of the sixth century: Venantius Honorius Fortunatus.  The text of the hymn is included below.  I encourage you to read through or sing the hymn before you read this devotion.  

Fortunatus originally wrote Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle in a poetic style known as trochaic tetrameter, which, technical mumbo-jumbo aside, is a “marching cadence for the Roman legions that is well suited to a processional hymn (Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, p. 318).”  Lutheran Service Book pairs the original text of this hymn (translated from Latin) with a modern tune which reflects well the military style and themes of the hymn.

LSB suggests Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle as the hymn of the day for Good Friday and Holy Cross Day (Sep. 14).  This says a lot about what we celebrate on these days of the Church Year.  The day Jesus hung on the cross for our salvation was a day of victory.  When we go to church on Good Friday we are celebrating this victory.  Christ on the cross marks the ending of the fray (battle) against sin, death, and the devil (stanza 1).  Christ, the world’s redeemer, as a victim won the day (st. 1).  The cross, then, is not a sign of defeat, but a trophy of victory (st. 1), a sign of triumph (st. 4), the noblest of trees (st. 4), and a symbol of the world’s redemption (st. 4).

In addition to being an inspiring commentary on the victory of Good Friday, Fortunatus also makes both implicit and explicit references to many passages of Scripture throughout his hymn.  We hear in stanzas 1 and 3 of the hymn references to Isaiah 53 and the Lamb that is led to the slaughter, who bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. When Fortunatus speaks of the cross as the “symbol of the world’s redemption, for the weight that hung on thee (st. 4),” we recall passages such as 1 Peter 2:24:
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.
Time would fail me to point out the other Biblical references to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the doctrine of the incarnation, and the obedience of Christ to His Father’s will spread throughout the hymn as well.

What a joy it is to be able to sing this hymn of the month for March with strong and confident voices, for we know that the victory of which we sing is our victory in Christ!

Used in this devotion is content from Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, Vol. 1 (CPH: 2019), p. 317-322.
Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle
      Lutheran Service Book #454
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
    Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
    Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
    As a victim won the day.

Tell how, when at length the fullness
    Of the-appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
    Left for us His Father’s home,
Blazed the path of true obedience,
    Shone as light amidst the gloom.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
    He went forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
    Did His work, and met His death;
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
    On the cross His dying breath.

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
    Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
    None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
    For the weight that hung on thee!

Unto God be praise and glory;
    To the Father and the Son,
To the-eternal Spirit honor
    Now and evermore be done;
Praise and glory in the highest
    While the timeless ages run.

Text: Venantius Honorius Fortunatus, c. 530-609; tr. John Mason Neale, 1818-66, alt.
Public domain
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Thomas Cowell