in their own way, full of a kind of simple love and gratitude. The more learned among us would poke holes in their faulty logic or misplaced theology. The simple but pious may not understand all the implications. Yet they are what they are.
When I was a child we called them the “old” hymns, old meaning for all intents and purposes the time before us. In our case it was the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. They were songs of revival, songs of personal gratitude for the presence and work of God, and songs about heaven composed in an era when people just didn’t live nearly as long as we do now and so it was a pressing topic.
Whatever else they could be, they were most often simple and direct. The voice of one loving heart sent to the Throne. People sometimes wept when they sang them and lives were changed by the words. Burdens were lifted and hope was restored. Broken people found the balm of Gilead and grace never stopped amazing.
I’ve been to Cathedrals with lovely choirs. I’ve attended Mozart’s “Requiem” and Bach’s “Passion according to St. Matthew”. All well and good yet I can hardly remember a word. Perhaps I’m not developed enough. Perhaps I have not yet risen to my Master of Divinity (what an awful name for a degree) and still have a long way to go.
Yet I remember and if the words to those “old” hymns aren’t always so capital “O” Orthodox the love they touch on is and if that’s all that remains I still will be the better for it. “Nearer my God to Thee” indeed.