WHole013This time picking a hymn for a feast day coming up this week: The Nativity of St John the Baptist. The timing matches in with the feasts of the Annunciation (when Elizabeth was in her 6th month) 25th March, and the Nativity of Our Lord – 25th December. Most saints’ feast days commemorate the day of their death (or birth into eternal life), except Our Lord, our Lady and St John the Baptist. What do they have in common? They were all born without original sin! St John Baptist was conceived with original sin, but his encounter with Jesus in utero was his own baptism.

The corresponding chant of the week post has an English hymn which is a better fit for the feast, but not as commonly sung in English. It tells more the story of the actual birth of St John. Another tack could have been to look at the Canticle the Bendictus.

Instead I’ve picked the first hymn in the Old Westminster Hymnal, a hymn more for Advent, but still a beautiful reflection on the role of St John the Baptist.

[audio: http://brandt.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/HarkAHerald.mp3%5D

Hark an awful voice

Hark, a herald voice is calling;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say;
“Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

2 Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

3 Lo, the Lamb so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiv’n.

4 So when next He comes with glory,
Shrouding all the earth in fear,
May He then as our defender,
On the clouds of heav’n appear.

5 Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit
While eternal ages run.

Tr. Edward Caswall, 1814–75

Clyde McLennan has some great backing files – make your own Karaoke mix!

This tune is also a great match for Cardinal Newman’s hymn Firmly I Believe.