As my regular readers know, I pray morning and evening prayer each day, and it helps me keep a sense of moral direction in these very disquieting days. Last night, with more news from Iraq and the vioence in Gaza, I gave up trying to pray the evening office, even though it has enough of a comprehensiveness to relay my feelings of “The President is a violent moron; help him, Lord” and “Guilty or innocent, the treatment of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib is going to plan new violence” and so forth. But violence was the constant them.
That, rather than the failing of rite, led me to make my evening prayer in song. So taking a cue from all those Friday lists of “what’s in your I-Pod” here were the hymns I sang, with a rough indication of why I sang them:
- For the people of the United States: “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”
- For those brutalized in Iraq, Gaza, and elsewhere: “Lift, Thy Head, O Zion Weeping” (Hymn of the Hungarian Galley Slaves)
- For those in authority: “O God of Earth and Altar”
- For clarity: “O Strength and Stay, Upholding All Creation”
- For courage: “Eternal Ruler, of the ceaseless round”
Comfort, comfort ye my people, /
speak ye peace, thus saith our God; /
comfort those who sit in darkness, /
mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load; /
speak ye to Jerusalem /
of the peace that waits for them; /
tell her that her sins I cover,
and her warfare now is over
Though in chains thou now art grieving, / Though a tortured slave thou die, / Zion, if thou die believing, / Heaven’s path shall open lie. / Upward gaze and happy be, / God hath not forsaken thee, / Thou his people art, and surely / He will fold his own securely.
O God of earth and altar, / bow down and hear our cry, / our earthly rulers falter, / our people drift and die; / the walls of gold entomb us, / the swords of scorn divide, / take not thy thunder from us, / but take away our pride.
Grant to life’s day a calm unclouded ending, / An eve untouched by shadows of decay, / the brightness of a holy deathbed blending / With dawning glories of the eternal day.
Oh, clothe us with thy heavenly armor, Lord, / thy trusty shield, thy sword of love divine; / our inspiration be thy constant word, / we ask no victories that are not thine; / give or withhold, let pain or pleasure be; / enough to know that we are serving thee.