Sunday, February 14, 2016

Of Love, and Truth, and Heaven

While today is generally recognized as a celebration of love and romance, it also marks the day when Saint Valentine (one of them, at least) was beheaded.  I suppose that there may have been some ancient hymns for the day, but none of them are in use any longer, so we will settle for a wedding hymn instead.

I have not presented many hymns for weddings (only one that I recall) as most of them are "wife and husband" hymns and the definition of marriage is broader in our day.  Contemporary hymnwriters have responded to this change and are now writing texts that reflect our current needs.  There are a few older hymns, however, that might work in a modern setting. 

We join to ask, with wishes kind,
A blessing, God, from thee,
On those who now the bands have twined
Which ne’er may broken be.

We know that scenes not always bright
Must unto them be given;
But over all give thou the light
Of love, and truth, and heaven.

Still hand in hand, their journey through,
Joint pilgrims may they go;
Mingling their joys as helpers true,
And sharing every woe.

May each in each still feed the flame
Of pure and holy love;
In faith and trust and heart the same,
The same their home above.

Elizabeth Gaskell (?), 1868; alt.
Abram B. Kolb, 1902

The authorship of this hymn seems to be in some doubt. credits it to the English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), but in some other sources it is credited to her husband, the Reverend William Gaskell (1805-1884) who was a Unitarian minister, and who wrote rather more hymn texts than his wife.  Apparently when it was first published in a hymnbook only the surname "Gaskell" appeared.

Composer Abram Bowman Kolb (1862-1925) was a Mennonite who worked for many years in various editorial capacities at the denomination's publishing house. He wrote both texts and tunes.  I have no reason to believe that this tune and text have ever appeared together before but they did seem like a good thematic match, at least.

Of course, today is also the First Sunday in Lent, and if you like that sort of thing there are links below to previous hymns for the day.

P.S. - the non-religious art above is from the fresco The Triumph of Love (1738) by Italian painter Antonio Balestra.

Seven (Liturgical) Years Ago: Thirsting for a living spring

Six (Liturgical) Years Ago: O Food to souls wayfaring

Four (Liturgical) Years Ago: Your forty days of trial

Three (Liturgical) Years Ago: I heard the voice of Jesus say

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