That’s the first line of one of my favorite hymns. The hymns and the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer have been the chief influences on my makeup. There have been others almost as strong: Bible commentaries, especially those of William Barclay; the lives of the saints; and the writings from the early church set forth in J. Robert Wright’s “Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church.” Certainly it is frequent repetition that really groves them in, such as those of the General Thanksgiving in Morning and Evening Prayer – truly words to live up to.
But back to my favorite hymn, which is number 337 in the Hymnal 1982 if you want to have a look. It is in the grouping of hymns for Holy Eucharist. It is that, surely, but it is also the perfect hymn for a wedding,, especially a wedding in which the Holy Communion is celebrated. I selected it as one of the hymns at the wedding of one of my daughters. I don’t know if they noticed the words, a bride and groom in the middle of their marriage service probably wouldn’t, but the third verse, which makes it the perfect wedding hymn, was my prayer for them. Here it is:
And then, for those, our dearest and our best,
By this prevailing presence we appeal;
O fold them closer to thy mercy’s breast!
O do thine utmost for their souls true weal!
From tainting mischief keep them pure and clear,
And crown thy gifts with strength to persevere.
O, give thanks for those who compose prayers and hymns that shape our spiritual lives.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 20-October-2015.