Hymns of Holy Week and their Story

March 27, 2023

“Ride On, Ride On, in Majesty”

On December 5, 1820, Reginald Heber invited Henry Milman (1791-1868) to compose a few hymns for a collection he was preparing.  In his collection, Heber sought to adapt hymnody to the different Sundays and Saints days of the year, and to the Gospel appointed for the day.  It was on May 11, 1821 that Milman had composed this hymn to which Heber responded; “Alas!  Your Advent, Good Friday, and Palm Sunday hymn has certainly spoilt me for any attempts myself at such hymnody.”  
By focusing on the beast, rather than on Jesus in the original first verse, Milman is initiating a gradual movment throughout this hymn.  The sequence of this verse moves one from earth to heaven as all beings are involved in and reflect on this work of Christ.  With each verse, Milman expands his poetic vision, and with each new perspective, the power of the event increases: each character offers another reflection that deepens the understanding of Christ’s sacrificial work and that magnifies His majestic meekness and humility.
The stance throughout this hymn is one of faith.  Milman is not asking people to identify with the Palm Sunday crowds, nor with those who demand a crucifixion.  Instead, he is asking them to make a confession of faith as they celebrate Jesus.  The cry to “ride on” is voiced in full knowledge of what such riding will bring: a dying that triumphs over death [verse 2], an approaching sacrifice [verse 3], the “fiercest strife” [verse 4], and the mortal pain Jesus must experience [verse 5].  
As people join in this hymn, they will experience a deeper, faithful, reflection upon the names of Jesus.  He is hte One who humbles Himself unto death - even death on a cross.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry.
O Savior meek, pursue Thy road, with palms and scattered garments strowed.

LSB 441

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