Readings for John Mason Neale: Priest, Scholar and Translator (7 August 1866)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13: 45 – 46)
“John Mason Neale was born in London in 1818, studied at Cambridge, where he also served as tutor and chaplain, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1842. Chronic ill health made parish ministry impracticable, but in 1846, he was made warden of Sackville College, a charitable residence for the poor, which position he held for the rest of his life.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 7)
Neale was ordained a priest but career parochial duties were beyond his abilities. What was not beyond his abilities was his love and legacy of musical worship. “With such familiar words as “Good Christian men, rejoice” (The Hymnal 1982, #107), “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain” (#199, 200), “All glory, laud, and honor” (#154, 155), “Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle” (#165, 166), and “Creator of the stars of night” (#60), he greatly enriched our hymnody.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 7)
Jesus points out that when we find our true appreciation of what our gifts are and where our gifts meet the world’s needs we are truly willing to let go of all we have in order to obtain it. Such is the parable of those who sold all they had in order to have what they most sought. True happiness is often a matter of choice. Let go and receive or just watch and stand still. What is it that would cause you to let go of all you have in this world in order to have greater happiness?
John Mason Neale did not have a long life. But he had a valued life. And he valued hymnody. And we are beneficiaries of his passion. I doubt that he knew that he was leaving a legacy. He just met the world with what God gave him.
Seeking your passion may be more difficult than just selling all you have and obtaining it. “Neale faced active persecution for his liturgical and theological principles. He was forced to resign his first parish due to disagreements with his bishop. He was physically attacked several times including at a funeral of one of the Sisters. Mobs threatened both him and his family, believing him to be a secret agent of the Vatican attempting to destroy the Church of England from within.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for August 7) People, even Christians, can be so cruel at times. I ponder today if such a person was to be in our midst today, would anyone stand with such a person in their dignity, especially those of us who profess to be Christians and respect the dignity of every person?
After a short but dedicated life John Mason Neale died on the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1866, at the age of 46, leaving a lasting mark on our worship. Thank You Jesus.
Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+