Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Many Names of God

God's many names as expressed in the hymns we sing is one of the ongoing themes here, though I've never made this too explicit. The poetic expressions of hymnwriters through the ages use many different names for God, some found in scripture, some not.

We know the familiar names: Father, Creator, Maker, Son, Redeemer, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, Comforter. Love is a name given to God in many hymns. Modern hymnwriting is especially fond of “new”
names for God, but I hope we've seen here that “modern” ideas are often not as modern as we think. Some of the hymns we've seen here already have named God in these other ways:


Shield and Defender

Protecting Power

Breath of Life


Eternal Loveliness

Grace Divine

and the sometimes controversial (elsewhere, but never here)

Here's another one, by the Unitarian
Seth Curtis Beach, primarily known for his book Daughters of the Puritans (1905) a collection of biographical essays on women writers of New England.

Mysterious Presence, Source of all --
The world without, the soul within,
O Fount of life, hear thou our call,
And pour thy living waters in!

Thou breathest in the rushing wind;
Thy Spirit stirs in leaf and flower;
Nor wilt thou from the willing mind
Withhold thy light and love and power.

Thy hand unseen to accents clear
Awoke the psalmist’s trembling lyre,
And touched the lip of holy seer
With flame from thine own altar fire.

That touch divine, O God, impart;
Still give the prophet’s burning word;
And, vocal in each waiting heart,
Let living psalms of praise be heard.

Seth Curtis Beach, 1866; alt.
William Knapp, 1738

Mysterious Presence may not be considered sufficiently orthodox a name for some, but this hymn has not been confined solely to Unitarian Universalist hymnals (the list at that link is actually incomplete; the rest of them are here). We will revisit this theme again, perhaps with more emphasis, but if you think about it, you can probably come up with a few uncommon names from hymns you already know. Please feel free to mention them in the comments section!

No comments: