Jainee McCarroll and the Rev. Steve White
Steve: It’s hard for me to say what it is that makes this hymn one of my favorites. It was one of the communion hymns at my ordination as a priest and the words beautifully capture our longing to be close to God “at our waking and our sleeping.” It is connected to my Irish heritage, as the words are from an 8th century Irish manuscript and the tune comes from an old Irish ballad. The tune’s name is “Slane”, is from a place in County Meath, Ireland where legend holds that St. Patrick lit an Easter fire on a hill top in A.D. 433 in defiance of the the Druid king who forbade any other fires while a festival fire was burning on the Hill of Tara. When I visited Slane a couple of years ago, I tried to explain the significance of the place to the others in my tour group, but I couldn’t get their attention until I found this hymn on my cell phone and played it for them. At this, everyone shouted out, “I know that song. I love it!”
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
all else be nought to me, save that thou art—
thou my best thought, by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father; thine own may I be;
thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.
High King of heaven, when victory is won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever be fall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
Irish, ca. 700; versified Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880-1931); tr. Eleanor H. Hull (1860-1935), alt. These words are in the public domain.