Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mansions of the Lord

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
he burneth the chariot in the fire. ~ Psalms 46:9

Tomorrow, May 28, is Memorial Day in the United States. On this day we remember and honor those men and women in the Armed Forces who gave their lives in service to our country. Today, for those who have never lost a close relative or friend serving in the military, Memorial Day seems to mean little more than an extra day off from work and an occasion for picnics and used car sales. But for those who have borne such a loss, or who have simply made it their business to honor our fallen heroes and support their families, Memorial Day is a profoundly moving time.

But not always a somber, wretched time. Perhaps because Memorial Day falls in the fullest flower of spring, it has always cast for me a ray of light and hope, just behind the dark wall of painful remembrance. As a child I would go with my grandmother every "Decoration Day"--as it was then called--to the cemetery behind our family's church, where we laid a pot of flowers at my long-departed grandfather's grave and with Grandma would say a brief, silent prayer. I recall it as always being sunny and warm. All the veterans' graves were adorned with colorful flags. Yes, we often had a family picnic too, but it was always preceded by that quiet remembrance.

This bonding of grief and hope, sadness and peace is reflected in a moving contemporary hymn to fallen servicemen called Mansions of the Lord. The text was composed by Christian songwriter, screenwriter, and director Randall Wallace, and the music by English film score composer Nick Glennie-Smith.It was sung by the U.S. Military Academy Glee Club during the closing credits of the 2002 film We Were Soldiers, which chronicled the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang in Viet Nam. The hymn also served as the recessional in the 2004 funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

 Randall Wallace and Nick Glennie-Smith

The text consists of three short stanzas that dwell not on war and death, but on the eternal peace of Heaven--the "Mansions of the Lord"--to which a fallen soldier (or sailor or airman) is commended by his comrades, who promise to stand guard and remember him always. The hymn reminds us that in that blessed place there is no more war, no fear or pain, no anguish or loss--just "divine embrace, eternal light." The music is likewise simple, dignified, and uplifting, and reinforces the text's message of hope (as the hymn is not in the public domain the sheet music can't be reproduced here, but if you'd like to view and download it for a fee, click here).
To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight,
No prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep,
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep,
All through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord.
  Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington, DC, USA

The presentation below is the original version of the hymn sung in We Were Soldiers by the Cadet Glee Club of West Point, along with a stirring orchestration and a moving video tribute to fallen warriors and their families:

You'll notice that this presentation includes a solo voice portion not part of the hymn itself, excerpted from the lament "Sgt. MacKenzie" by Joseph Kilna MacKenzie, as sung in a Scottish dialect and with a "translation" to standard English:
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

Ains a year say a prayer faur me
Close yir een an remember me
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me
 Below is another presentation, also sung (I believe) by the Cadet Glee Club but without orchestration--except for a very poignant bugle introduction--and is accompanied by another very moving video.

The video below presents the Cadet Glee Club itself performing Mansions of the Lord, with an introduction that provides some very thought-provoking information on just how many men and women have given their lives in America's service in the last hundred years:

War, though sometimes necessary in the defense of truth, justice, and national survival, is perhaps the greatest scourge in human experience. The believer--especially the believing soldier and his or her family--longs and prays for the day when war and conflict are no more, and we rejoice eternally, together, in the presence of our Savior and Heavenly Father.  It is this hope that we share with departed loved ones, and which, perhaps, inspired these beautiful passages from Scripture:

[T]hey shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. ~ Isaiah 2:4

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4

May the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of today live to see it,
and lock arms with their departed comrades once more.


  1. WOW....what a powerful, and yet simple, hymn, for this Memorial Day! So many tend to forget what Memorial Day SHOULD be: a time to remember all those who 'gave the last full measure of devotion'. The videos accompanying "The Mansions of the Lord" are heartbreaking (I was startled by the one picture of the dead soldier in his casket!). I wish this hymn could be sung at every military funeral, AND at every Memorial Day service. THANK YOU for posting this!

  2. A great tribute to our fallen brethren. It is also nice to see our Lord and Savior being acknowledged again in our country.

  3. I have searched all day to find the hymn "Mansions of the Lord" and finally found it ..... it is a wonderful tribute to all of our fallen soldiers....wonderful.

  4. Such a soul searching beautiful truism that brings tears to my eyes and pleads to GOD to hold each and everyone of these brave, courageous military men and women in HIS PRECIOUS ARMS for giving their lives for OUR FREEDOM. My deepest, heartfelt "THANK YOU" to all of them.

  5. Thank-You For a Truly Wonderful Hymn to Honor those Who Have Given Their Last Greatest Sacrifice. May God Bless You!

  6. I am always so moved by this hauntingly beautiful song, especially since my son, who is an Army soldier, shared it with me. I heard Ronan Tynan sing Mansions of the Lord and he added a few lines to it right before the "Where no mothers cry" part. I would really like to find the lyrics to Ronan's version, but haven't been able to. I would appreciate any help in finding his lyrics as I want to transcribe them for a scrapbook I'm putting together for my son.

    1. Hi, Rita:

      I believe these are the lyrics in the Ronan Tynan version that you're looking for:

      I pray in the night
      Deep shadows fall
      My heart surrenders all
      Hush of the evening bells toll

      You can see them at exactly 2:00 into this video:

      You can see Ronan Tynan sing this version in this video:

      Hope this helps!