Abide With Me

Abide With Me” and “Nearer My God To Thee” are my two favorite Christian hymns.

I wonder why. I guess one reason is that there is nothing explicitly or uniquely Christian about them.

I identify with being on the Titanic and the ship going down and there aren’t enough lifeboats and you realize that it is all about to end and that all your desires and strivings will no longer count for much. It is in these times that I turn to God and want to feel connected to Him.

I want to die thinking about God.

Now living for God, that’s a much more difficult challenge.

Christianity is much more focused on the next world than this one. It is a romantic religion while Judaism is much more prosaic. This makes it easier for Christians to get all spiritual. They have such an appealing story — salvation descends from above. You just have to accept it.

I have zero doubts about the wisdom of my conversion to Judaism. I don’t think there is anything new in Christianity that is true and I don’t think there is anything true in Christianity that is new, I just get wistful sometimes for the tunes and people I left behind. Sometimes I’ll play these hymns 20 times in a row and get all teary.

According to Wikipedia: Abide with Me is a Christian hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte.

He wrote it in 1847 while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion.

The hymn is a prayer for God to remain present with the speaker throughout life, through trials, and through death. The first verse is probably the most well-known:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA: “Nearer, My God, to Thee” is a 19th century Christian hymn by Sarah Flower Adams, based loosely on Genesis 28:11.

Lawrence Hoffman says Reform Judaism had an early preference for Christian hymns with the particularly Christian verses removed.

“Abide With Me” was sung at Temple Israel in St. Louis.

I’m sure the last stanza was omitted:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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