‘Alleluia, Sing to Jesus’
User's Guide to Sunday, May 17: Solemnity of the Ascension in most of the United States
Editor's Note: This has been updated since it was first posted.
May 17 is celebrated as the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Year B) in the United States, except in the Archdioceses of Boston; Hartford, Conn.; New York; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia and Omaha, Neb. (including the entire state of Nebraska). In those dioceses, the Ascension is celebrated on the previous Thursday, and Sunday, May 17, is celebrated as the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20
One of our family’s favorite hymns has always been Alleluia, Sing to Jesus. The kids sing it in morning devotions and know it by heart.
The song is set to the Welsh hymn tune Hyfrydol (though we are not sure how to pronounce that) by composer Rowland Prichard, who wrote it in 1831, when he was 20 years old. The same tune accompanies a number of favorite hymns, such as Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and Come, Thou, Long-Expected Jesus.
The words are by William Chatterton Dix, who also wrote What Child Is This? and many other hymns. He was a young businessman whose true passion was poetry. He focused on secular themes until a near-death experience caused a spiritual reawakening in his life.
Alleluia, Sing to Jesus will be sung at plenty of Masses this Ascension Thursday and Ascension Sunday. Consider what it teaches about the Ascension.
“Alleluia! sing to Jesus! / His the scepter, his the throne; / Alleluia! his the triumph / His the victory alone.”
The Church teaches that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, where he is the Lord of the cosmos and of history. The hymn belts out the consequences: “The songs of peaceful Zion / thunder like a mighty flood.”
“Though the clouds from sight received him,” / When the forty days were o’er /Shall our hearts forget His promise, ‘I am with you evermore.’”
Even though Jesus disappeared into heaven, he is still with us. Today’s Gospel spells out what that looks like: He accompanies his disciples as they do amazing things on earth.
“Alleluia! Bread of angels, / Thou on earth our food, our stay. … Intercessor, friend of sinners / Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me.”
This verse tells about two realities of Jesus. He remains with us in the Eucharist — and at the same time, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, he intercedes constantly for us. He builds us into his body, the Church, and he establishes the beginnings of his kingdom, which will reach full stature when he returns.
“Thou within the veil hast entered, / Robed in flesh, our great High Priest; / Thou on earth both Priest and Victim/ In the Eucharistic feast.”
The hymn ends with a beautiful image reminiscent of the old Baltimore Catechism illustrations: Christ is in heaven, but he acts through his priests on earth.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.