"All glory, laud, and honor
To thee, redeemer, King!
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring."
-Theodulph of Orleans
I cannot read the words of St. Theodulph above and not think about Palm Sunday, or Sunday of the Passion, as it is also known. In my mind's eye I see small palm branches being waved by children only slightly larger, and crowds of dressed up people. In my mind's ear I hear a grand, festive musical introduction, brass instruments and enthusiastic singing. If I try hard enough, I can even conjure up the smell of used hymnals and a whiff of beeswax candles.
Sing For Joy Executive Producer Jeff O'Donnell and I have just recorded April's programs for Palm Sunday and Easter. And yes, indeed, "All Glory, Laud and Honor" starts off the Palm Sunday program.
There is plenty of historical information about Theodulph himself: he was a friend and theological advisor to Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, and the theologian/bishop Charlemagne called on to defend the Western (Rome) Church's version of the Nicene Creed in debate with the Eastern (Constantinople) Orthodox Church, a debate that eventually led to schism. Among the many things Theodulph wrote, two pieces especially were often copied in later centuries. Part of a preface he wrote for the Latin Vulgate Bible was still being printed a few centuries after he died, and of course his hymn "All Glory Laud and Honor" has been in nearly continual use for well over a thousand years now.
But there is also a legend about Theodulph and his hymn. It is one of those stories that, though it has no basis in history, sounds like it could have been true. According to the fanciful tale, Theodulph was in prison, or under house arrest. So far so good — Charlemagne's son and successor, Louis the Pious, did indeed place Theodulph under house arrest in a monastery. From that point on, however, the story loses touch with history, but not with loveliness. It should be true, even though it isn't, that when King Louis rode by the monastery in full regal procession one Palm Sunday, Theodulph started singing his hymn from a monastery window. King Louis was so moved that he freed Theodulph on the spot. Alas, the story is happy, but not historical.
Oh well, the hymn is just as wonderful without the invention of the tale. And there is certainly no cause for schism in Theodulph's great hymn text! Doctrinal debates can be set aside on Palm Sunday when choir and congregation raise the rafters, as my grandfather used to say, with "All Glory, Laud, and Honor."
Peace be with you,
Pastor Bruce Benson