Titles are deceiving…
View the starry realm of heaven,
shining distant empires sing.
Skysong of celestial children
turns each winter into spring, turns each winter into spring.
Great you are, beyond conception,
God of gods and God of stars.
My soul soars with your perception,
I escape from prison bars, I escape from prison bars.
You, the One within all forming
in my heart and mind and breath,
you, my guide through hate’s fierce storming,
courage in both life and death, courage in both life and death.
Life is yours, in you I grow tall,
seed will come to fruit I know.
Trust that after winter’s snowfall
walls will melt and Truth will flow, walls will melt and Truth will flow.
I have never sung this hymn. I have never really even paused to read the lyrics. I think once or twice I have noticed that it was written by notable Unitarian minister and martyr Norbert Capek. But I’ve easily flipped past, because we’ve got so many “ooo, look at God in nature” hymns already.
Sure, the first verse is lovely and nature filled. But this second verse… “my soul soars with your perception; I escape from prison bars.” And the verses after… “courage in both life and death”… “trust that after winter’s snowfall walls will melt and Truth will flow.”
A look to the bottom of the page – the tune is called Dachau. And I remember this, from the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography:
On the 28th of March, 1941, Čapek and his daughter, Zora, aged 29, were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Pankrac Prison. Zora was accused of listening to foreign broadcasts and distributing the content of some BBC transmissions; Čapek himself of listening to foreign broadcasts and of “high treason.” Several of his sermons were cited as “evidence” of the latter charge. Listening to foreign broadcasts was a capital offense under the Protectorate. Two separate trials were held, the first at Pankrac Prison soon after their arrest; the second, an appeal of the original decision, at Dresden in April 1942. The appeals court found Čapek innocent of the treason charge, recommending that, given his age, the year between his arrest and the appeals trial be counted toward his jail time. The Gestapo, ignoring the court’s recommendation, nonetheless sent Čapek to Dachau, Zora to forced labor in Germany. Čapek’s name appears among prisoners sent on an invalid transport on October 12, 1942 to Hartheim Castle, near Linz, Austria, where he died of poison gas.
And I think to myself of all the people of faith who maintained their faith in the worst of atrocities – Čapek, yes, and Bonhoeffer and Frankl – and I think of all that our faith calls us to do, and how we find the courage to do so.
And my mind goes to my colleagues who are heading to Standing Rock to answer the call to clergy to come pray… and the call that went out 51 years ago to clergy to join King in Selma… and all of the times our faith calls us to face down atrocities, because our faith helps us find the courage to do so.
I’m not heading to Standing Rock because of various commitments here – but I support those who are going, and I pray with those who are, and I pray that all who are there remain safe.
“Life is yours – in you I grow tall.” May we all grow tall, and courageous, and may the truth flow.