Feast of Frederick Oakeley (January 30)   1 comment

Vatican Flag

Above:  Vatican Flag

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican then Roman Catholic Priest

Frederick Oakeley was the son of Sir Charles Oakeley, former Governor of Madras.  The younger Oakeley graduated from Oxford and became a priest of The Church of England.  His brother-in-law, William George Ward, brought him over to  the Tractarian camp of the Established Church.  So it was, in 1839, while serving at All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, that Oakeley attracted attention (much of it negative) because of his Anglo-Catholic ways.  James Moffatt, in his companion volume to the 1927 Scottish Presbyterian Hymnary, noted Oakeley’s

ultra-ritualistic service (page 450),

a comment I would expect from a Presbyterian of a certain stripe.  Oakeley’s drift toward Roman Catholicism led to his suspension and his formal conversion in 1845.  He became Canon of Westminster in 1852.  Oakeley wrote extensively on matters of Roman Catholic doctrine and liturgy, especially antiphonal chanting.  Robert Guy McCutchan, in his companion volume to the 1935 U.S. Methodist Hymnal, observed

His publications were numerous, some having considerable value.  (page 132)

Such faint praise from a Methodist source in the 1930s does not surprise me, given the relative state of ecumenism at the time.

Perhaps Oakeley’s best known hymn is “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” which he translated from Latin, in which there are eight stanzas.  Most English versions in hymnals have fewer stanzas, however.  I collect hymnals, many of which I have consulted while preparing this post.  Some of these volumes contain a different English translation, that of Edward Caswall.  Others contain Oakeley’s translation.  And certain hymnals offer hybrid versions.  I have reconstructed a five-verse Oakeley version from The Hymnal (1933) of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and The Hymnal of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1957).

O come, all ye faithful,

Joyful and triumphant, (or Joyfully triumphant)

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!

Come and behold Him

Born the King of Angels!


O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him,

Christ the Lord!

The Brightness of glory,

Light of light eternal,

Our lowly nature

He hath not abhorred:

Son of the Father, Word of God Incarnate!


O see how the shepherds,

Summoned to His cradle,

Now leaving their flocks,

Draw nigh with lowly fear;

We, too, will thither bend our joyful footsteps;


O sing, choirs of angels,

Sing in exultation,

O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above! (or Through heaven’s arches be your praises poured!)

Glory to God (or Now to our God be glory)

In the highest!


Amen, Lord, we greet Thee,

Born this happy morning; (or Born for our salvation)

O Jesus, to Thee be glory giv’n; (or Jesus, be forever Thy name adored:)

Word of the Father,

Now in flesh appearing,


I have researched, drafted, and typed this post immediately prior to Advent 2012.  So it seems appropriate to ponder Oakeley, a translator of one of the great Christmas carols, at this moment.  His legacy survives him; it is current.  Recently, while spending too much time at YouTube, I found a video of cats meowing the hymn.  It was not a sublime experience.  No, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” deserves more respect, as does Frederick Oakeley.


Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definition and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Frederick Oakeley)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26





Revised on November 21, 2016


One response to “Feast of Frederick Oakeley (January 30)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of John Goss and William Mercer (May 10) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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