Monday, July 22, 2013

Saint Mary Magdalene

For the feast day of Mary Magdalene, we have a very familiar hymn that may seem out of place at first glance. 

As we have seen, older hymns for this day sometimes emphasize the story of the 'fallen woman,' which modern scholarship does not seem to support.  Contemporary hymns about Mary Magdalene are more likely to depict her as a follower of Jesus (almost but not quite one of the twelve disciples). and especially to recount her role as Apostle to the apostles on Easter morning, the first witness to the Resurrection (but see the Five Years Ago link below for Charles Wesley's eighteenth-century text on that very subject).

Hymnwriter Charles Austin Miles was fairly prolific, but this particular text and tune has been far and away his most popular.  He claimed that the inspiration for it came to him in a dream, after reading the resurrection account in John 20, 'the story of the greatest morning in history,' as he called it.  As we sing this text, we should remember that it is written in the voice of Mary Magdalene.

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The risen Christ discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
And he tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that he gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.


I’d stay in the garden with him
Though the night around me be falling,
But he bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.


C. Austin Miles, 1912; alt.
Tune: IN THE GARDEN ( with refrain)

Five Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

Four Years Ago: Emily E. S. Elliott 

Three Years Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

One Year Ago: Saint Mary Magdalene

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