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Published Date: October 31, 2002

Published Date: October 31, 2002

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Hymns to Celebrate Women of Faith

Recent hymnody sometimes focuses on subjects never acknowledged in most of the hymns of earlier centuries—often because the subject matter was foreign to the hymn writers. “God of Concrete, God of Steel,” written in 1969 by Richard G. Jones, is one example. The same thing cannot be said about songs that celebrate women; for the most part, women have merely been ignored over two millennia.

Richard Sturch, a retired Anglican minister in England, has recently given us translations of two hymn texts by philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard, who wrote sermons, poems, and letters, and Mr. Sturch has given us his translations of the two hymn texts from the Latin that appear here acknowledging the giftedness and contributions of women of faith.

Good Friday And Easter Eve


Where are the brave men?
All run away:
Women alone have
Courage to stay:
Soldiers’ guard with spear and sword
Cannot keep them from their Lord.

Dead lies the Shepherd,
Scattered the sheep;
Only the weak ones
Still vigil keep.
Love has brought them safely here,
Perfect love that casts out fear.

Make us all sharers,
Lord, of your pain,
Then of your glory,
Risen again;
Grief must hold a passing sway,
Joy return with Easter Day!

Text: Peter Abelard, Trans. Richard Sturch

© 1993 and this trans. © 2002 Stainer & Bell Ltd. Admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For The Feast Days Of Women Saints


By the fault of man and woman
All our race was lost in sin;
Man’s and woman’s full obedience
Brought the healing medicine:
Christ put on his form of manhood
In the Virgin Mary’s womb,
Grace and full salvation bringing
In the ancient curse’s room.

Through the centuries of darkness
Woman had been ruled by man,
Humbled in her status, waiting
Till fulfilment of the plan :
God’s great mercy now has lifted
Woman to her truer place
Since the time that Mary listened
To the angel’s words of grace.

Who could count the holy virgins
Walking where Christ’s mother trod?
Who the widows who in mourning
Vowed their lives as gifts to God?
Who, again, the holy women
Who have felt love’s burning fire,
And have passed through marriage holy
To the high celestial choir?

Even in the ranks of harlots
God has found his penitents,
More responsive than the righteous,
Sinners once, and then his saints:
Glory let us give and honour
To the blessed Three in One,
By whose power all-prevailing
Marvels such as these are done!

Text: Peter Abelard, Trans. Richard Sturch

© 1993 and this trans. © 2002 Stainer & Bell Ltd. Admin. By Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

* * *

Peter Abelard (1079-1144), composer in Latin of the hymn texts above, was a French theologian “whose writings . . . constitute one of the more impressive attempts of the medieval period to use logical techniques to explicate Christian dogmas” (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy). The above texts are recent translations by Richard Sturch, a retired Anglican clergyman and noted Charles Williams scholar. The tunes noted above were written for these specific hymns and thus are unlikely to be available in North American hymnals (the hymns and tunes may be found in Stainer & Bell’s hymnal Hymns & Congregational Songs, published in Great Britain). However, the meter for “Good Friday and Easter Eve” is uncommon, and a substitute tune may prove difficult to locate. “For the Feast Days of Women Saints,” on the other hand, may be sung to such familiar tunes as “Hyfrydol,” “Ebenezer,” the “Austrian Hymn” or others sharing its more common meter. You may wish to find some use for these hymns that celebrate women of faith.