Rose: Hymns – Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds

Paul Zeller Strodach was born in March of 1876 to Henry and Mary Strodach. While his mother was a native Pennsylvanian, his father and grandparents were immigrants from Germany – then Bavaria – who settled first in New York and then later in southeast Pennsylvania. This area was largely populated by Germans who came to be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and there was already a sizeable Lutheran Community present. Henry’s family joined the local church, where a pastor encouraged young Henry to enter the ministry. He attended Muhlenberg College for his undergraduate, the first class of that college, entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, and became a pastor in 1874. A little more than 20 years later, his son Paul would follow in his footsteps, attending the same college and seminary and be ordained in 1899.

Paul served at four different churches in his 48 years of ministry. One such church is actually near my current home, and I hope now to visit it and admire its beautiful Romanesque architecture. Five years after his ordination, Paul married Bertha Kleppinger, and it appears they had one son together. Paul also worked as an editor at the publication house for the United Lutheran Church for 20 years! Unsurprisingly, he also wrote a handful of books, translated some Lutheran works into English, and aided in compiling a hymnal. Finally, he wrote a small collection of hymns, most notably “Now Let the Vault of Heaven Resound.” Though he moved around a bit between the different churches he was called to, he was back in his home state of Pennsylvania when he died in May of 1947.

As Paul Strodach was of German heritage, there should be little surprise that he took a familiar German tune to pair with his hymn. LASST UNS ERFREUEN is a rather old German tune, though its first record is found in the Geistliche Kirchengesäng hymnal of 1623. This German Catholic hymnal was put together as a part of the counter-reformation. Though this hymnal’s original publication has since been lost, most consider it to have been a Jesuit composition of hymns for each church season. The original text for this tune was called “Laßt uns erfreuen herzlich sehr” or “Let Us Rejoice Heartily” and composed for Easter.

However, this tune was made popular by The English Hymnal of 1906. Composer Ralph Vaughn Williams was heavily involved with the hymnal and its tune compositions, and he took this older tune and composed his own arrangement with harmonies. This arrangement is what we find not only in our own Lutheran Service Book but also in most English hymnals. This tune was typically coupled with “All Creatures of Our God and King,” From all that Dwell Below the Skies,” and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.” It should be noted that though the text associated with this tune has changed, and the arrangements vary, it has retained its “Alleluias.” And as we sing this hymn, let us also remember to sing Alleluia evermore, for Christ has triumphed!

Now all the vault of Heav’n resounds
In praise of love that still abounds:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Sing, choirs of angels, loud and clear,
Repeat their song of glory here:
“Christ has triumphed, Christ has triumphed!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The hymn opens with a most majestic picture. Though we cannot really picture heaven, we can imagine what it looks and sounds like when a glorious vaulted cathedral is like when a chorus of voices are singing together below it. But this vault we sing of here is so much greater, so much grander, reverberating with such a sound of rejoicing that we can only fail to imagine and long to hear with our own ears. This is the sound of angels singing the praises of God, and for what? He has triumphed over sin, death, and the devil! And this only occurs now because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us! He died for us and rose again victorious! Like the sound echoing and continuing in all of heaven, we also imagine this love that rebounds through time, reaching even us. We implore the angles, “Sing!” Then we on earth do not leave this joyous proclamation only for them. No, we repeat their chorus here on earth, for our Lord and Savior has risen again, triumphing and reclaiming us as His (Psa. 13:6, 30:4, 69:34, Isa. 44:22-23, Matt. 28:6, 1 Cor. 15:55-58, Rev. 5:5, 19:6-8). Thus, we sing the three “Alleluias” – praise the Lord! – for this wonderful love that has overflowed from the vaults of heaven to us!

Eternal is the gift He brings,
Therefore our heart with rapture sings:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Now still He comes to give us life
And by His presence stills all strife.
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And is it only because the angels are singing that we sing? No! We sing because this triumph of our living God comes with a gift, a promise: we have eternal life through Him (Jhn. 3:14-18, 6:47, 54, 68, 10:28, 20:30-31 Rom. 6:23, 8:11). No longer does death hold its sting, or the grave its victory. For the victory belongs to our God, and peace has come from Him. Now we await His second coming. And look to this phrase: “Therefore our heart with rapture sings.” In response to this great gift of still abounding love, eternal life, we sing to the Lord. Our heart is completely captured, our spirit entranced. The joy is proclaimed not only from our lips but in our hearts with thanksgiving to God. He has risen indeed! Alleluia!

O fill us, Lord, with dauntless love;
Set heart and will on things above
That we conquer through Your triumph;
Grant grace sufficient for life’s day
That by our lives we truly say:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Even so, we are reminded briefly that we are not among the vault of heaven but still here on earth. So we ask the Lord to fill us with that fearless love that we focus not on early things but on those things to which God has called us (Eph. 2:10, Col. 3:1-4, 1 Pet. 1:13-16). “Thy will be done,” not ours. So because of this gift of love and life through the triumph of Christ, we ask that the Lord grant us grace to live a life worthy of the calling He has made for us, setting out to do all that He has tasked for us, that our lives may not be marked by us but by the renewed life and hope given because Christ has conquered sin and death (Eph. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 2:15). Let us not think of the Resurrection only for one day, but let us truly be Easter Christians who live with a heart singing evermore, “My Savior is living! Alleluia!”

Adoring praises now we bring
And with the heavenly blessed sing:
“Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!”
Be to the Father and our Lord,
To Spirit blest, most holy God,
All the glory, never ending!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

We end our singing in praise to our Triune God. We sing with the angels who are ever-present before the Lord and with all the saints on Earth, “Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!” In another way, we are singing, “He is Risen! He is risen indeed! Praise to the Lord!” The word “adoring” brings us back to when Christ first came, and people adored Him at His birth; it brings us to the Eucharist when we adore our Lord every week; it points us to His second coming where His glory and praise will continue never-ending. When we adore, we worship, for that is what the word means. So these are worshipful praises laid at the feet of Him who has triumphed over all of our sin (Psa. 86:9, 95:6, 96:9, Rev. 5:11-14, 22:3). Thus, we sing the “Alleluias” from now until we too can hear with our own ears the vault of Heaven resound forever!

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig


Works Referenced

“465. Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds.” The Lutheran Service Book. 2006.

Bertha L. Kleppinger Strodach. Find a Grave.

Hoffman, Hugo. The History of St. Paul’s Ev. Luth. Church, Brooklyn, N. Y. from 1853-1903. United States, Wartburg Printing House, 1903. pp. 141-43

Laßt uns erfreuen herzlich sehr.” Musica.

Lasst uns erfreuen.” Hymn Descants.org.

LASST UNS ERFREUEN.” Hymnary.org.

Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds.” Hymnary.org.

Paul Zeller Strodach 1876–1947. Hymntime.

Rev Henry Baptiste Strodach. Find a Grave.

Rev Paul Zeller Strodach. Find a Grave.

Wilson, John (Winter 1980). “Treasure No 46: The Tune ‘Lasst uns erfreuen’ as we know it”Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland. IX.10 (150). 

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