Yesterday at Mass we sang as the final hymn John Athelstan L. Riley's "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," and though I am not normally one to advocate for modern hymns (this one was written in 1906), I would say this hymn seems very appropriate for congregational worship at Holy Mass, for any number of reasons.
First, it is a hymn of jubilant praise, in which all the heavenly host is enlisted to join our praise, and therefore would actually seem appropriate for eucharistic worship anytime, outside of the penitential seasons. To be more theologically precise, it would be better to say that we join the heavenly choirs than that they join us. And that is what is so significant, I think, about a hymn like this. Namely, while it does not expound the faith nearly as nicely and fully as other hymns do, it seems most concerned with catching the invisible reality of what is going on at the moment of the Blessed Eucharist. And so in a certain sense it reminds me of Luther's hymn paraphrase of the Sanctus, namely, "Isaiah Mighty Seer."
Second, it preserves, in its first stanza, the traditional ranks of the angels. This is very useful for a feast like that of Saint Michael and All Angels (though as a traditionalist, I would argue for the return of the sanctoral scheme wherein this feast focuses on Michael, and the other angelic feasts are brought back, such as Gabriel, Raphael, and Guardian Angels).
Third, this hymn is built on a strong sense of the communion of saints. The Mass itself teaches us this lesson in several ways, but it is good to reinforce it from time to time by means of hymns of this sort. The fact is that the angelic hosts, along with the saints that have gone before us, as well as our brethren around the world we cannot see, are all in an intimate communion in the Church, and are one in the worship of Christ our Immanuel.
Fourth, since the above is true, it is most certainly true in the case of the greatest of the saints, the one the Lutheran Confessions call the "pure, holy, and always Virgin Mary." The one through whom the God man came into the world must always have a prominent place in Christian meditation, for she is the bearer of God, and therefore stands in a unique way as type of the Church and indeed of the Christian. So I rejoice that such a hymn stanza as the second one of this hymn is employed in our churches. At times I have seen some react with surprise when it is pointed out that the Virgin Mary is referenced in this hymn. Too often we Lutherans sing our hymns without really thinking on the words.
Here is the second stanza of "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," and though its text in Lutheran Service Book and in The Lutheran Hymnal are identical to each other, let me state explicitly, that I quote here from The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941, the makers of which have, in Christian kindness, graciously given it to the Church for free use. So I recognize them, and thank them.
TLH: 475: 2
O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of the eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!