Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Hymns Old and New -- Abide With Me

In the spiritual journey, the "dark night of the soul" is often fraught with mortal peril. Moses may have met the Divine up on the mountaintop, but all too often the Divine is actually encountered deep in the abyss when death is near. Which is exactly when and where the encounter must occur if you hope to emerge safely from the depths again. If you do not meet the Divine in the abyss (and not everyone does), all will be lost and you will not return to life's surface. The difficult thing about an encounter with the Divine is that it cannot be willed, forced or fabricated. Those who return from the abyss know that the meeting occurs only by divine grace beyond our control.

Abide With Me has always been a favourite hymn of mine because it expresses so compellingly the comfort and strength which the Divine may grant in such an encounter. The words were written in 1847 by Henry Francis Lyte, a Scottish Anglican dying of tuberculosis. It was set to music in 1861 by William H. Monk, whose young daughter had just passed away. These men knew the abyss and what it is to look death in the face.

"Help of the helpless, oh abide with me."



Although the words of this hymn utilize the Christian idiom, it goes without saying that the abyss and divine grace are equally well known in paganism and every other form of spirituality. Many gods and goddesses embody the ancient myth of descent, death and rebirth which expresses the same truths about this spiritual experience. It was the Great Goddess Inanna and her Dark Sister Ereshkigal who called my own name so many years ago now.

Thanks to dbs of think.stew blog who suggested posting this recent rendition of Abide With Me by the fabulous Scottish singer Emeli Sandé -- I agree with you, dbs: whoa.

29 comments:

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Wow...it's beautiful. Thank you for sharing :)

mxtodis123 said...

What a beautiful hymn, I have never heard it. Thanks for sharing.
Mary

Pickleope Von Pickleope said...

I actually needed something like this. Hopefully those who are swimming through that deep abyss have a chance encounter with the Divine.

DEZMOND said...

Emeli Sande is the most amazing songwriter! She's a Scottish singer, not British :)

Indefinable said...

I couldn't agree more. Inane called to me almost a decade ago and she is always with me. We descent more than once in life, and in this descent she is right next to me. Thanks for sharing this.

Indefinable said...

^^^^^I HATE autocorrect in iPad. Inanna is not inane.

Snap said...

Gorgeous. I'm "borrowing" for FB.....

ox

A Beer For The Shower said...

Absolutely beautiful. Enjoyed every second of that. This was exactly what I needed on a very, very stressful morning.

Jeanne said...

Beautiful! The first time I had heard this song was at a church revival in Oklahoma.

Magaly Guerrero said...

Bliss-full...

Elsie Amata said...

Very elegant sounding.

Mary said...

It's beautiful Debra! Thank you so much for sharing it!

Laurie M said...

beautiful,

Riot Kitty said...

Wow. I had no idea of the backstory - that makes it much more interesting.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

The music is beautiful and very haunting. It actually gave me goosebumps.

Adam said...

great hymn

Professor Chaos said...

I always loved that one. Growing up Lutheran, there weren't a whole lot of real enjoyable hymns in our church, but that one always spoke to me, even as a kid.

Guillaume said...

Need to listen to it when I have the chance.

Laurent said...

A very nice hymn well done in this recording.

Insomniac’s Attic said...

One of my favourites, along with Rock of Ages (NOT the Tom Cruise version!)and The Old Rugged Cross. Oh jeez, now that I think about it, I have lots of favourites. :)

dbs said...

I know eh?!
When my brother was dying of cancer this version helped me cope. I'm glad it connected with you and your followers.

John Gray said...

She does a lovely turn
Thank you for following going gently

bobbybegood1 said...

i agree somewhat in that some meet the divine in great times of suffering, but not all. i dont think one has to be in the abyss to experience divine guidance - if that is what you mean. although, that is the time that most will call upon some type of spirituality to guide them through the rough patches. cant hear on this computer, but i am sure it is a beautiful song. i think i have heard the song before, but not sure. great post. cheers!!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh, you're absolutely right, bobbybegood1! Like the Buddhists say, there are many paths to enlightenment. The Divine can call us in all kinds of different circumstances! I was just talking about one particular kind -- "the dark night of the soul."

JACKIESUE said...

when I went to mass when I was a kid, they didnt sing hymns..

Magic Love Crow said...

This is so beautiful Deb! Thankyou ;o)

Elena said...

The dark night of the soul. Yep. Get it. Can't wait to hear the song next. Great words!

Dawna said...

I like the simplicity of it. It's a a moving hymn for sure

Francie M said...

Oh Debra. I had never thought of that old hymn like that. Thanks for this blog. It came at a good time!