We sang what I call a “square” hymn a couple of weeks ago at St. Alban’s, Hymn 601 in The Hymnal 1982. Square hymns are …well, square, literally. Or sometimes rectangular. Two or four lines of music, regular phrase lengths, no points of particularly interesting harmonic tension, a fairly limited range of notes, and sturdy texts that don’t usually go to great poetic heights. But on this occasion there were some bits of text that came through loudly and clearly as I was playing Hymn 601 in church.
O day of God, draw nigh in beauty and in power,
come with thy timeless judgment now to match our present hour.
Do you agree that we could use the perspective of God’s timeless judgment in this present hour?
Bring to our troubled minds, uncertain and afraid,
the quiet of a steadfast faith, calm of a call obeyed.
Steadfast faith, shown by listening to God’s call in our lives could only help calm our troubled minds.
Bring justice to our land….bring to our world of strife thy sovereign word of peace.
That war may haunt the earth no more and desolation cease.
These are words that could have been written right now. Paired with a 16th century tune as it was, it didn’t occur to me at the time that the words were from a 20th century author. One who, I would come to find out, served in the last century’s two world wars and knew something of fear and desolation.
O day of God, draw nigh as at creation’s birth,
let there be light again, and set thy judgments in the earth.
Sometimes there is wisdom to be found by thinking inside the box.
Let there be light.