Behind the Music: All Creatures

I love hearing the stories behind the songs we sing as a church.

All Creatures of Our God and King is one of the better known songs in the western church, but I hadn’t realized how ancient and how recent it was.

The song is based on the “Canticle of the Son” by St. Francis of Assisi. It’s the work we get the lines “brother son and sister moon” from which are well known from the 1970’s movie and the inspiration for the title of an album by the band mewithoutyou.

The Canticle was written in Francis’ later life as a reflection on Psalm 145. The story goes that while on his death bed Francis had friends dictate addition words reflecting on his coming death and faith in Christ. Which are reflected in the third verse we sing at Calvary:Arlington: “And thou most kind and gentle death, waiting to hush our latest breath… thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod”

The modern English version is a translation and paraphrase of the Canticle by William Draper. He translated the text in 1910 for a children’s festival in England and the version was published in 1919.

I love that God inspired men through His Spirit and by His word to write word and music to express what God has done in their lives. God’s work inspired the anicent Jewish songwriters to pen Psalm 145. He cause Francis to write before his death in 1224 what became the Canticle of the Son, and for a man in 20th Century England to bring new music and a fresh lyrical perspective.

In the story of this song I see God’s inspiration and work in the lives of people across all generations. I see the timelessness of God’s work in humanity. I see in William Draper the need to update songs and expressions for a new generation, but also to reflect in the power of what Jesus did in and through a previous generation.

Most of all I love the 3rd verse of the song. I love the idea of Praising God even with our final breath.

“And thou most kind and gentle death. Waiting to hush our latest breath. Oh praise Him, alleluia.
Thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod! Oh praise Him!”

“I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless your name forever and ever.
Each day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” — Psalm 145:1-2

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