Monday, March 20, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 15: Lament and Personal Devotion

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) who wrote the words of this very famous and well-loved hymn was a Quaker poet, from New England, USA. He began life as a farm boy, but eventually became a journalist. This hymn is part of long poem (17 stanzas) which was called “The Brewing of Soma”, a drug brewed by Hindu priests which induced wild and uncontrollable behaviour. The poem is about our human tendency, our “foolish ways”, to want to escape reality through intoxication of one sort of another, including the whipping up of emotionally charged states in church. The verse immediately before the ones we sing as  a hymn reads,
And yet the past comes round again,/ And new doth old fulfill;/ In sensual transports wild as vain/ We brew in many a Christian fane [temple]/  The heathen Soma still!
Ironically, Whittier disapproved of the singing of hymns in church, but his words were quickly set to music anyway.
The tune, Repton, is by Hubert Parry (1848-1918), an English composer and academic, very prominent in the late Victorian and Edwardian music. He also wrote the tune to which the hymn Jerusalem is sung, as well as a great deal of choral and instrumental music.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

·         What helps you to hear God’s “still, small voice of calm”? (1 Kings 19.12)

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