“See the Conqueror” is a wonderful hymn on the Ascension of Christ. It is not widely known, but we hope to make it more popular, with God’s help! It was written by a 19th-century English bishop named Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1855), the nephew of poet William Wordsworth. Bishop Wordsworth authored many books, including The Holy Year, a book of hymns focused on various days of the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is in this book that we find “See the Conqueror” listed to be sung on Ascension Day.
Verse By Verse
The first verse sets the stage for the hymn by helping us to imagine the scene of the victorious Christ’s arrival into heaven. Like John in Revelation, it is as if we have been transported to the heavenly places to witness this joyful occasion and celebrate with the angels (Revelation 5:9-14).
See the Conqueror mounts in triumph, see the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds His chariot, to His heavenly Palace-gate;
Hark, the choirs of angel voices Joyful Hallelujahs sing.
And the portals high are lifted, to receive their heavenly King.
The scene continues in the second verse, starting with a rhetorical question: Who is this King that comes in glory? The question is quickly answered by the proclamation of who Christ is. He is the God of armies, the Word who took on flesh and conquered his foes by his death and resurrection (John 1:14; Colossians 2:15).
Who is this that comes in glory, with the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies. He has gained the victory;
He Who on the Cross did suffer, He Who from the grave arose.
He has vanquished Sin and Satan, He by death has spoiled His foes
In the third verse, Bishop Wordsworth does a masterful job of weaving together the themes of Christ as priest, king, and prophet with the types of Christ found throughout the Old Testament. In the resurrected and ascended Christ, we find the fulfillment of everything to which the prophets pointed (Luke 24:25-27).
Now our heavenly Aaron enters with His blood within the veil;
Joshua now is come to Canaan, and the kings before Him quail;
Now He plants the tribes of Israel in their promised resting place;
Now our Great Elijah offers double portion of His grace.
Those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:3-5). Being made alive together with Chirst, God has raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-7). There we reign as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God’s right hand.
There we sit in heavenly places, there with Thee in glory stand;
Jesus reigns, adored by Angels; Man with God is on the Throne;
Mighty Lord, in Thine Ascension we by faith behold our own.
In the final verse, we give glory to the Holy Trinity, “One God in Persons Three,” who, in perfect unity, brought about our salvation.
Glory be to God the Father, Glory be to God the Son,
Dying, risen, ascending for us, Who the heavenly realm has won;
Glory to the Holy Spirit; to One God in Persons Three
Glory both in earth and heaven, glory, endless glory, be!
Let Us Draw Near
As we conclude our reflection on this hymn, let us meditate on the importance of the Ascension of Christ and what it means for us today. After proclaiming the glorious sacrifice of Christ and his ascension to the right hand of God, the author of Hebrews gives us the following admonition:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25)
Let us draw near to God. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. And last, but not least, let us stir one another to love and good works. Being seated in the heavenly places with Christ, we are called to conquer as he did: through love, humility, and sacrifice.
Below are three videos of “See the Conqueror.” The first is an exclusive video from married musical duo Jenny & Tyler, who share with AC how they discovered “See the Conqueror” and why they included it on their album Open Your Doors. Then we hear their version of the song, which includes three verses and an original bridge. For more music from Jenny & Tyler, check them out on Apple Music and Spotify. You can also get a free 7-song EP from their website.
The second video presents four verses, sung a cappella by Oasis Chorale, conducted by Wendell Nisly, and the third video features Joe Stout singing all ten of Bishop Wordsworth’s original verses. Enjoy!