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.
These words are familiar to many of us. We sing this wonderful hymn frequently here at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church. The text is from an 8th century anonymous Irish poem, translated into prose by Mary Byrne, and put into verse by Eleanor Hull in the early part of the 20th century. The tune, "Slane," a traditional Irish air, originally used with a secular text, was first paired with these sacred verses in the Irish Church Hymnal of 1919. In 101 More Hymn Stories, Kenneth Osbeck explains, "The tune is named for a hill, ten miles from Tara, in County Meath, where St. Patrick is said to have challenged King Loegaire and the Druid priests by lighting the Paschal fire on Easter eve."
In this hymn, many descriptive titles are ascribed to God: Vision, Lord, Best Thought, Wisdom, Word, Great Father, High King, Inheritance, Treasure, Sun, Ruler, and Heart. When we sing these verses, we are asking God from the very beginning to be our main focus, our leader, our strength, our protector, our sustainer. We are acknowledging God to be of highest importance in our lives, worthy of all of our praise, our strength, our efforts, our love. Does this sound familiar?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true Word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou my soul's shelter, and thou my high tower;
Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
So when we sing these words together this Sunday, think about your relationship with God, and consider how much God loves you. Then consider how God wants you to love your neighbor. Then go and do it!