Holy Week Hymns and their Story

“Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle”

April 06, 2023

“Sing my Tongue, the Glorious Battle”, written and composed by Venantius Fortunatus (540-early 7th century) is a great narrative hymn of salvation.  The Latin text contained ten verses, with the Church of the Middle Ages adding a doxology to the end of the hymn.  
Verse 1 is a song of praise, to the redeeming victory of Christ, the crucified victim.  Echoing texts such as Isaiah 52:9-10 and Psalm 98:1-2. It calls all to sing of the victim who was victorious through His suffering and death, echoing Christ’s triumphant final words from the cross: “it is finished” [John 19:30].
Verse 2 contains the phrase “tell how ... He the Word, was born of woman, left us for His Father’s home.”  This is a reference to Galatians 4:4-5.  
The original vs. five is a sweet lullaby to the birth of Jesus.  It describes Mary binding Jesus in His swaddling clothing, “meetly thus in linen folding of her God the feet and hands.”  
Verse 3 recalls Jesus pre-ordained ministry and His willing death on a cross.  He was led like a lamb, and was slaughtered. [Isaiah 53:7]
Verse 4 is the paean to the cross as salvation’s instrument: “faithful cross, true sign of triumph.”  The cross is faithful and noble because of the promises of God, and the weighty responsibility with which Jesus willingly offered Himself upon such an awful death.
In the final verse, in modern hymnals, the victory at the cross leads to praise to the Triune God who accomplishes all things.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain...” [Revelation 5:12]. 

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

LSB 454

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