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.