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About this commemoration
John Mason Neale was a priest of many talents. As a hymnodist, he furnished The Hymnal 1982 with several original hymns and more than thirty translations of Latin and Greek hymns. As a priest, he gave active support to the Oxford Movement in its revival of medieval liturgical forms. As a humanitarian, he founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret for the relief of suffering women and girls.
Neale was born in London in 1818, studied at Cambridge, where he also served as tutor and chaplain, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1842. He was both a scholar and a creative poet, whose skills in composing original verse and translating Latin and Greek hymns into effective English speech patterns were devoted to the Church. With such familiar words as “Good Christian men, rejoice,” “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,” and “Creator of the stars of night,” he has greatly enriched our hymnody.
Gentleness combined with firmness, good humor, modesty, patience, and devotion, with “an unbounded charity,” describe Neale’s character. Despite poor health, he was a prolific writer and compiler. Among his works are Medieval Hymns and Sequences, Hymns of the Eastern Church, Liturgiology and Church History, and a four-volume commentary on the Psalms. In a busy life, he also found time to establish the Camden Society, later called the Ecclesiological Society.
Though he never received preferment in England, his great contributions were recognized both in the United States and in Russia, where the Metropolitan presented him with a rare copy of the Old Believers’ Liturgy. He died on the Feast of the Transfiguration at the age of 46, leaving a lasting mark on our worship.
No future hymnal is conceivable without the inclusion of some of Neale’s fine devotional poetry. The Prayer Book, for example, cites two of his translations by name as being especially appropriate for Palm Sunday and Good Friday: “All glory, laud, and honor” for the procession with the palms, and “Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle” at the climactic point of the Good Friday service.
Collect of the Day
Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Mason Neale, we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Chronicles 20:20–21
1 Corinthians 1:1–9
Preface of the Dedication of a Church
We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.