6. Amazing Grace:
I don’t remember singing this hymn in my childhood, but I was introduced to it later. It is one of America’s greatest and most beloved hymns. Our own unaided efforts are not enough to save us. We cannot work enough, or even believe enough, but God can always find us. We triumph by his Grace. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe this far, And grace will lead me home.” Yes.
Words: John Newton
Music: Early American Melody, Arr. Edwin O. Excell
5. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee:
This hymn from the “Hymn to Joy” by Beethoven is probably the best piece of music in the list – and the only one that justifies being played on an organ. It is here by virtue of its shear beauty.
Words: Henry Van Dyer
Music: Ludwig Van Beethoven
4. The Doxology and Gloria Patri: Every Sunday, we sang these two hymns as responses.
This is again a beloved promise: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, Amen, Amen.”
Words: from the Latin
When my father was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and unable to communicate or control much, to the very end, he could still join in when the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer. I believe that the last song I will ever be able to sing is the Doxology:
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen
Words: Thomas Ken
Music: Attributed to Loys Bourgeois
3. O, God, Our Help in Ages Past:
I really can’t give a reason for this choice. I just like it, okay? There is truly no accounting for taste.
The third verse starts, “Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame....” Every time I see tiers of hills or mountains stretching to the horizon, I am reminded of this line.
The fourth verse is “A thousand ages in thy sight, Are like an evening gone; Swift as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.” I remember how shocked, SHOCKED, I was the first time I learned that some people still took seriously the man who counted up the ages of everyone in the Bible and arrived at a date of creation. (Some year in the 4000’s B.C. In October, I believe.) At a very young age, I understood the meaning of allegory. “A thousand years is but a day unto the Lord.” (2nd Peter 3:8) How can we presume to understand time the way God does?
Words: Isaac Watts
Music: William Croft
2. The Lord’s My Shepherd:
This version of Psalm 23 has everything, a lovely melody and probably the world’s favorite psalm. I don’t know why it isn’t sung more often than it is, but the way the words are arranged to fit the melody may put people off. Personally, I have no preference for “to lie down” over “down to lie.” But possibly it reminds some of the convolutions their English teaches put them through in order to not end with a preposition. (A rule that doesn’t work in English like it does in Latin.) The odd thing is that a later line ends with the preposition “by” in order to rhyme with “lie.” Go figure. I love the music and the psalm, enough reason for its placement second to the top of this list.
Words: Psalm 23
Music: Jesse Seymour Irving
Tomorrow: My Favorite Hymn
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