April 16, 2005

39R There Is a Book

Original Title: "There Is a Book (Who Runs May Read)," John Keble (1819), DEDHAM (C.M.), William Gardiner (1812); New Title: "There Is a Book (Which All May Read)," rev. REH and Jim Clark (2005), KINGSFOLD (8.6.8.6.), arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1906). Keble was English, an exponent of the Oxford Movement, an Anglo-Catholic current within the Church of England. Gardiner and Vaughan Williams were both English. The original line from the hymn "who runs may read," is nothing if not obscure to modern speakers of English; it comes from Habakkuk: "Yahweh answered me, 'Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he who runs may read it.'" Habakkuk 2:2. At least one modern reading renders it this way: "Then the Lord replied: 'Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.'" The latter suggests that the purpose of running with the revelation in hand is so that the herald may read it to those whom he meets along the way; the lyrics here have been recast to capture this sense of the words in even broader terms-- that revelation is available to all, without mediation, and likewise may be interpreted by all. "The word of God is living and active," Hebrews 4:12. "They read from the book, from the law of God," Nehemiah 8:8 (NRSV). Those wishing to limit the hymn to singing about the Hebrew scriptures, given the grounding of the original quotation in Habakkuk, may wish to substitute "Christ" with "Love."

KINGSFOLD (8.6.8.6.)

1. There is a book, which all may read,
which heaven-ly truth im-parts;
and all the tools its read-ers need,
broad minds and lov-ing hearts.
The lives of proph-ets here be-low,
and works of Christ all 'round,
are pa-ges in that book to show
how God is free-ly found.

2. The glor-ious sky, em-brac-ing all,
is like the Mak-er's love,
en-com-pass-ing the great and small,
with-in and high a-bove.
The dew of heaven is like your grace,
it steals in si-lence down;
But where it lights the fa-vored place,
its rich fruits spell re-nown.


3. The rag-ing sea, the roar-ing wind,
your bound-less power dis-play.
But in the gent-ler breeze un-dinned:
your spir-it's free-ing way.
To us you give [the faith] to doubt,
and love this earth with care;
Give us a heart to seek you out,
and read you eve-ry-where.

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April 19, 2005

41R O God, Your Wonders

Original Title: "Father, Thy Wonders Do Not Singly Stand," Jones Very (1839, 1846), OLD FIRST, 10.10.10.10., later form of melody in Genevan Psalter (1542); New Title: "O God, Your Wonders (Do Not Singly Stand)," rev. REH (2007), TOULON, 10.10.10.10., abridged from Genevan Psalter (1551). The hymn is based on two poems, both called "The Spirit-Land," one written in 1839 and which begins "Father, thy wonders do not singly stand; the second, written in 1846 of the same title, begins "Open our eyes . . ." Very was a Unitarian minister, and Transcendentalist poet, contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who is said to have "gone mad" at an early age. "Spirit land" seems to be an invocation (albeit infrequent) of heaven even in conventional Christian hymns. For example, Samuel Greg's 1854 hymn, "Stay, Master, Upon This Heavenly Hill," entreats Jesus to "let us linger a little longer . . . and catch a glimpse into spirit land." Very seems, by contrast, to place this spirit land not somewhere distant or obscure, but rather somewhere "richly . . . displayed," in an "enchanted land" that lies ever around us. God gave us inspiration and intuition; Very seems to tell us we should not waste these precious gifts that are "at hand;" that is, available to us. Such is the language Jesus used too in speaking of the Kingdom of God, in images so often misunderstood by his followers. Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?,” Mark 10:17. "When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him," Luke 5:11 (NRSV). The hymn does not appear in Singing the Living Tradition or in The New Century Hymnal.

TOULON (10.10.10.10.)

1. O God! your won-ders do not sing-ly stand,
nor far re-moved where feet have sel-dom strayed;
A-round us ev-er lies th'en-chant-ed land;
Rich mar-vels to your child-ren thus dis-played.

2. In find-ing you are all things round us found;
In los-ing you are all things lost be-side;
Ears have we but in vain strange voic-es sound,
and to our eyes the vi-sion is de-nied.


3. O-pen our eyes that we that world may see,
o-pen our ears that we your voice may hear,
and in the spir-it-land may ev-er be,
and feel your pre-sence with us al-ways near.

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June 01, 2005

71R "Where Is Your God?" They Say

Original Title: "'Where Is Your God?' They Say," James Martineau (1873), O GOTT, DU FROMMER GOTT, 6.7.6.7.6.6.6.6., Ahasuerus Fritsch, harm. J. S. Bach; New Title: Same hymn title, rev. REH (2005), same hymn tune. James Martineau was an English Unitarian of Huguenot descent, too often underappreciated in North America. Psalm 14:1-2, "Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God' . . . The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God." 1 Kings 19:12, "A still, small voice." "If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him," Job 23:8-9. The hymn appears in neither Singing the Living Tradition, nor in The New Century Hymnal.

O GOTT, DU FROMMER GOTT (6.7.6.7.6.6.6.6.)

1. "Where is your God?" they say:
An-swer them, O Most Ho-ly!
Re-veal your se-cret way
of vi-sit-ing the low-ly:
Not wrapped in mov-ing cloud,
or night-ly rest-ing fire;
But veiled with-in the shroud
of si-lent high de-sire.

2. Come not in flash-ing storm,
or burst-ing frown of thun-der:
Come in the view-less form
of waken-ing love and won-der;
In du-ty grown di-vine
the rest-less spir-it still;
in sor-rows taught to shine
as shad-ows of your will.


3. O God, the pure a-lone,
e'en in their deep con-fess-ing,
can see you as their own
and find a per-fect bless-ing.
Yet to each wait-ing soul
speak in your still small voice,
till brok-en love's made whole,
and sad-dened hearts re-joice.

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June 02, 2005

72R I Cannot Find Thee

Original Title: "I Cannot Find Thee," Eliza Scudder (1864), no changes here, LOMBARD STREET, 11.10.11.10., Frederick George Russell (1929). Scudder (1821-1896) was niece of hymnwriter Edmund Sears. Originally a Unitarian, she subsequently became an Episcopalian. The hymn is (unconscionably) not included in Singing the Living Tradition nor in The New Century Hymnal. Psalm 14:1-2, "Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God' . . . The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who . . . seek after God." Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." "If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him," Job 23:8-9 (NRSV). "Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you," Psalm 116:7.

LOMBARD STREET (11.10.11.10.)

1. I can-not find thee. Still on rest-less pin-ion
my spir-it beats the void where thou dost dwell,
I wan-der lost through all thy vast do-min-ion,
and shrink be-neath thy light in-ef-fa-ble.

2. I can-not find thee. E'en when most a-dor-ing,
be-fore thy throne I bend in low-liest prayer;
Be-yond these bounds of thought my thought up-soar-ing
from far-thest quest comes back: thou art not there.


3. Yet high a-bove the lim-its of my see-ing,
and fold-ed far with-in the in-most heart,
and deep be-low the deeps of con-scious be-ing,
thy splen-dor shin-eth: there, O God, thou art.

4. I can-not lose thee. Still in thee a-bid-ing,
the end is clear, how wide so-e'er I roam;
The hand that holds the worlds my steps is guid-ing,
and I must rest at last in thee, my home.

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January 04, 2006

447R O God, Unseen

Original Title: "O God, Unseen But Ever Near," Edward Olser, Samuel Longfellow (1864), GRÄFENBURG, C.M., Johann Crüger (1653); New Title: "O God, Unseen," alt. REH (2006), same hymn tune. Exodus:16:3-4,"'If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness' . . . Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.'" "The invisible God," Colossians 1:15. John 6:48, 51, "I am the bread of life." "I cannot perceive [God]," Job 23:8. The hymn does not appear in either The New Century Hymnal nor Singing the Living Tradition.

GRÄFENBURG (C.M.)

1. O God, un-seen but ev-er near,
our bless-ed rest are thou;
and we, in love that has no fear,
take re-fuge with thee now.

2. All soiled with dust our pil-grim feet
and wea-ry with the way;
we seek thy shel-ter from the heat
and burd-en of the day.

3. O wel-come in the wil-der-ness
the sha-dow of thy love;
the stream that springs our thirst to bless,
the man-na from a-bove!

4. A-while be-side the fount we stay
and eat this bread of thine,
then go re-joic-ing on our way,
re-newed with strength di-vine.

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January 05, 2006

546R Faith of the Martyrs, Living Still

Original Title: "Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still," adapted from Frederick William Faber (1849), ST. CATHERINE, 8.8.8.8.8.8., Henri Frederick Hemi (1865); New Title: "Faith of the Martyrs," rev. REH (2006), same hyme tune. Though the son of an Anglican cleric, Faber was a Roman Catholic priest. The hymn speaks of the persecution of Catholics in Britain; the original spoke of "Mary's prayers" that would set Britain free. Its position in Hymns of the Spirit Two (1937) is of note; as no. 546, it is the first hymn in the section marked "SUPPLEMENT." Many of these hymns were reckoned to be tunes of lesser quality, popular with the more rural Universalists. Oddly, however, "Faith of Our Fathers" does not appear in the prior hymnal published by the Universalists, Hymns of the Church (Boston: 1917) (though Reginald Heber's "Forth From the Dark and Stormy Sky" appears therein to ST. CATHERINE, a tune which does not appear anywhere other than at no. 546 in Hymns of the Spirit Two). It may be that its Catholic pedigree (Universalists were generally less anti-Catholic than Unitarians and other Protestants of the day) and the theme of persecution made the hymn appropriate for the "Universalist" section. In New England, the Unitarians were originally part of the "Standing Order" of (state-supported) Puritan/Congregational churches until in some cases the middle part of the 19th century; such standing did not apply to the (relatively speaking, persecuted) Universalists. The lyrics echo Hebrews 11:1-2 (NRSV), "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval." They also obliquely refer to the story in Mark regarding John the Baptist, "she rushed back to the king and requested, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter,' . . . Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter," Mark 6:25-28. One too is reminded of Job in the Hebrew Bible, "But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold," Job 23:10. "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: . . . Gird up your loins . . . I will question you, and you shall declare to me," Job 38:1-3. "Then Job answered the Lord: 'I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted,'" Job 42:1-2. The hymn's lyrical change to "Faith of Our Mothers" is more than fanciful political correction; while the Congregational Church claims the first woman ordained to Christain ministry in the United States, the Universalists claim the first woman approved to the ministry at the denominational level, in the person of Olympia Brown. In the Midwest, female preaching "circuit riders" (including the celebrated Iowa Sisterhood) famously spread the liberating gospel of the faith. The hymn does not appear in Singing the Living Tradition, but does appear as "Faith of the Martyrs, Living Still," as no. 381, in The New Century Hymnal.

ST. CATHERINE (8.8.8.8.8.8.)

1. Faith of the mar-tyrs, liv-ing still,
in spite of dun-geon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
when-e'er we hear that glo-rious word!
Faith of the mar-tyrs, ho-ly faith!
We will be true through life and death.

2. Faith of our fa-thers, we will strive
to dwell with all souls peace-ful-ly;
and through the truth that comes from God,
we all shall then be tru-ly free.
Faith of our fa-thers, ho-ly faith!
We will be true through life and death.

3. Our for-bears chained in pri-son dim
were still in heart and con-science free;
and blessed would be our own lives' fate
if we, like them, should live for thee.
Faith of our for-bears, ho-ly faith!
We will be true through life and death.

4. Faith of our mo-thers, we will love
both friend and foe in all our strife;
and preach thee, too, as love knows how
by kind-ly words and vir-tuous life.
Faith of our mo-thers, ho-ly faith!
We will be true through life and death.

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