Christ is Made the Sure Foundation – Text: Latin (Angularis fundamentum, 7th cent.); tr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) / Music: Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
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Of unknown authorship, this hymn has descended from an early mediaeval Latin hymn found in some Mozarabic manuscripts. It contains unmistakable references to familiar biblical passages, like Ephesians 2, 1 Peter, and Revelation 21, echoes of the church at worship, bound together in Christ “the head and cornerstone.” The translation is by John Mason Neale, the 19th-century translator of more than 200 Greek and Latin hymns, referred to by Percy Dearmer as “the most learned hymnologist and liturgiologist of his time.”
Purcell’s tune Westminster Abbey is derived from the Alleluia at the end of his verse anthem, “O God, thou art my God.” Our setting in Common Praise follows the arrangement in Hymns Ancient & Modern 1950, which was made by E. Hawkins for The Psalmist 1836-42. As a composer, Henry Purcell accomplished in his short life what few would think of attempting, writing prolifically for church, stage, and concert hall. Acclaimed by his contemporaries as “England’s greatest composer,” in Purcell’s day English church music attained an eminence that was not again to be reached for 200 years.
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
Chosen of the Lord, and precious,
Binding all the Church in one,
Holy Sion’s help for ever,
And her confidence alone.
All that dedicated city,
Dearly loved of God on high,
In exultant jubilation
Pours perpetual melody,
God the One in Three adoring
In glad hymns eternally.
To this temple, where we call thee,
Come, O Lord of Hosts, to-day;
With thy wonted loving-kindness
Hear thy servants as they pray,
And thy fullest benediction
Shed within its walls alway.
Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
What they ask of thee to gain,
What they gain from thee for ever
With the blessèd to retain,
And hereafter in thy glory
Evermore with thee to reign.
Praise and honour to the Father,
Praise and honour to the Son,
Praise and honour to the Spirit,
Ever Three, and ever One,
While unending ages run.