Hymns – Ancient and Modern, pt.1

This week we are singing hymns ancient-and-modern. These are hymns that were written generations or centuries ago, but which have seen a resurgence in Contemporary Christian Music.  The first hymn we will be singing on Tuesday is “Be Thou My Vision.”  Tradition holds that when St. Patrick (385-461) was a missionary in Ireland in the 5th century, King Laoghaire of Tara decreed that no one was allowed to light any fires until a pagan festival was begun by the lighting of a fire on Slane Hill. In a move of defiance against this pagan ritual, St. Patrick did light a fire, and, rather than execute him, the king was so impressed by his devotion that he let Patrick continue his missionary work. A century later, a monk named Dallan Forgaill (c.530-598) wrote the Irish poem, “Rop tú mo Baile” (“Be Thou my Vision”), to remember and honor the faith of St. Patrick on that day.  The poem lived on in the Irish monastic tradition.  The oldest extant copies of the poem date to the 10th c.  The poem was basically unknown in modern times until it was translated from the Old Irish to English in 1905 and versified in 1912.  The now-versified poem was first married to the Irish folk tune Slane in 1927 for the “Church Hymnary” for the Church of Scotland. The name of the tune (which had long been in existence itself) is named after the hill on which the words of the hymn are based.  The hymn was not in the Hymnal 1940 but is in the 1982 Hymnal.  In recent years, according to hymnary.org, the hymn has been “performed and recorded by too many artists to count.” Regardless of the artist, the tune and words (except in the 1982 Hymnal) are generally unchanged.

A second ancient-and-modern hymn we are singing the week is “It Is Well With My Soul.” The hymn was written by a Presbyterian Chicago lawyer named Horatio Gates Spafford. His two years old son died in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Two years later his family traveled to Europe.  He was delayed, but his wife and four daughters went on. Their ship, the SS Ville du Havre, sank and only his wife survived.  As he journeyed to Europe to be with his wife, the ship’s captain informed him that they were over the area where the Ville du Havre sank.  Upon hearing this he began to write the hymn.  A few years later, Phillip Bliss, an evangelist musician with the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, wrote the tune to the hymn and named the tune “Ville du Havre.”  The Spafford’s Presbyterian Church considered the unfortunate events God’s punishment on the family.  Join us on Tuesday to hear the rest of the story and how the Spaffords ended up providing for the poor of Jerusalem after WWI.  

Dinner is at 6. The menu is Chicken Pot Pie. Hymn singing begins at 6:45. Hope to see you here and please bring a friend.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, singing: “Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, O King of the ages!”

Revelation 15:3

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