Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hour by hour

It's a classic English hymn in which tune and lyric resolve themselves to a precise and unremarkable meter, yet it has stuck with me since last Sunday as a statement of faith that I want to share. A video link is available at the bottom, but I'd like to meditate on the words a bit.

The second verse strikes me the most, starting with "Pride of [hu]mans and earthly glory,/sword and crown betray [human] trust."

Indeed, this is all I feel after decades watching the policy circus here in Washington. I have at last forgiven John F. Kennedy for not living up to the posthumous pedestal in which I placed him; Barack Obama is at last showing his adroitness, yet I know that he oversold an idealism to me that he didn't, and perhaps even I didn't, hold. I went to both their inaugurations, 1961 and 2009.

The corollary, "what with care and toil [we do] build,/ tower and temple fall to dust," is inevitable. The twin towers of New York City, precisely, " fell to dust," as did the temple of Jerusalem, as will one day the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul here in Washington.

Frankly, the World Trade Center in my aesthetic evaluation was the ugliest marring of the Manhattan skyline in my lifetime and good riddance ... albeit a peaceful wrecking ball that didn't hurt a fly would have done the job much better. That's the point: the hubris of building a monument to U.S. globally rapacious greed was begging, like the Tower of Babel, to be brought down.

In the next lines "But God's power,/hour by hour,/is my temple and my tower," I could use without the word "power," but of course, it must rhyme with hour and tower. I would put love, creation or simply being (ah, the old teachers who tried to drill into our heads that God's essence is existence). God is the temple and tower, in any case.

I also love the lack of dogmatic pretension in the first verse: "God unknown." God remains unknown, rather than in and as justification for our creedal, political or economic theories.

Yet, still, the author is confident at the end, "Christ doth call/one and all:/ye who follow shall not fall." The Messiah, the saving force of God, does call. Clearly, I lack that hope that all will be well for those who answer; yet I admire it.

To hear and see the lyrics of "All my hope on God is founded," words by Robert Bridges (1844-1930) based on the German on Joachim Neander (1650-1680), tune simply known as "Michael," click here.