Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Be Thou My Vision

It's been interesting to notice which songs have become bedtime traditions with Hope and, in contrast even now, with Kate. They're quite different. While Hope has heard "Arrorro, mi niña" and an original Spanish lullaby of my own making since the day she was born (give or take a day) along with some Orthodox childrens songs we've learned, Kate and I have, on the few times I've been the one to rock her to sleep for the night, fallen into the tradition of singing all the verses of "Be Thou My Vision" which I can recall by memory. A fellow parishioner who, like me, came from a very similar sort of "bapticostal" background -- right down to the same youth missions organization during the teenage years -- knows this song, at least in part, in its "praise band" version, usually with lone, female singer in front swaying, eyes closed and almost trance-like, as she leads the crowd into a Hollywood sountrack-esque crescendo by the last verse (I, however, was fortunate enough to first hear the Michael Card version on his album, Starkindler, which I like very much and recommend).

Singing it now, though -- especially with the awareness of and need for (if not the active practice of) hesychia and constant remembrance of our Lord -- the verses take on a sober, almost martial tone, without triumphalism, without emotionalism ... yet still deeply moving. If you've clicked on the link already, you'll have heard most of the following verses (and, if you were watching, endured the sappy slideshow the author posted with the song). Nevertheless, here follows what I can remember of this beautiful Irish hymn of the Church:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my Light.

Be Thou my Wisdom and Thou my true Word,
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my Battleshield, Sword for the fight,
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight,
Thou my soul's Shelter, Thou my high Tower;
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always.
Thou and Thou Only first in my heart;
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heav'n's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun.
Heart of mine own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Amen. Sleep tight, Kati.


-C said...

I know this one by heart, too.
It never ceases to amaze me how some hymns I have known all my life have taken on an even deeper meaning now than they did when I learned them as a Lutheran.

Thanks for reminding me of this hymn.

Anonymous said...

Hi David!

I am new here (already had time to look through some photos. Your girls - all three of them - are adorable :)

I ended up here by googling "difference between orthodox and protestants" and your site was in the top 10 results. You really outlined everything well, addressing some questions that I've had for a while.

In the US, I have been searching for a church for years, and also went through Baptist, Catholic, Charismatic, other Protestant, only to come back to the church of my Russian roots - Orthodox. I am glad that you described communion so well, because that was one of the main reasons that directed me to Orthodoxy. Before Pascha I also attended Holy Unction - it was an amazing blessing to participate in the mystery.
What else brought me over is the non-materialist approach, as well as the emphasis on selfless charity and humility, as opposed to gaining wealth and possessing prophecizing/healing/speaking-in-tongues ability.

I still have some questions, so I am glad you have your forum - I will be checking it to see your and your wife's thoughts.

Best wishes,

David Bryan said...


glad I could serve as a reminder.

Katia (what a great name! ;-)),

Welcome! And welcome (back) home! Thanks for the comment and for letting me know you're there.

I assume you're talking about my "From Protestant to Orthodox" blog. Yes, the Eucharist is, far and away, THE reason this former Southern Baptist embraced sacraments and, ultimately, the Orthodox Church. While virtues like humility and sacrifice were (and, I assume, still are) taught in many a Baptist church out there (I was a member of three such ones myself growing up), the flesh-to-flesh, blood-in-blood encounter with the incarnate, risen and glorified Christ is still absent from our life in Christ if we are apart from the sacraments. Thanks be to God you're returning to Him through them!

David Bryan said...

Also, Katia -- thanks for the complement on my wife and two girls. They are more joy than I know what to do with.

Duda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Bryan said...

To the young man whose post was deleted: please don't take it personally; I will contact you via email. Thank you for contacting me!

Anonymous said...

Hi David and girls!

Yes, you are right about humility and sacrifice in Baptist church - that was the closest of Protestants to Orthodox that I've seen. It's the Evangelists/Pentecostals/Charismats who I was talking about and who seem farther because of the materialistic attitude. I used to go here (and it helped a lot initially) - but was driven away by the message during the offering: "Lord, we are giving you this offering and in return ask for: better job, better house, better car [+ about 50 more items of materialist income]" (no exaggeration). Pastor of that mega church had a house worth about several million in one of the wealthiest towns in NJ, owned several Arabian horses... Money money money. But you are right - there was no such "chant" at a Baptist church during an offering, so apologies for generalizing.

I liked Baptists, but for me they had too little structured prayer and too much expression of parishioners' feelings about God. And again, we are back to the fact that the communion was not there every Sunday, along with 2-3 hours of prayer before it.

So that was my journey :)

Thank you again for all you write.