STLT#2, Down the Ages We Have Trod

Down the ages we have trod
many paths in search of God,
seeking ever to define
the Eternal and Divine.

Some have seen eternal good
pictured best in Parenthood,
and a Being throned above
ruling over us in love.

There are others who proclaim
God and Nature are the same,
and the present Godhead own
where Creation’s laws are known.

There are eyes which best can see
God within humanity,
and God’s countenance there trace
written in the human face.

Where compassion is most found
is for some the hallowed ground,
and these paths they upward plod
teaching us that love is God.

Though the truth we can’t perceive
this at least we must believe,
what we take most earnestly
is our living Deity.

Our true God we there shall find
in what claims our heart and mind,
and our hidden thoughts enshrine
that which for us is Divine.

For me, this is less an inspirational hymn and more a utilitarian hymn – it is a lesson in theology: what do we believe about God? I have used this hymn in services – most notably in my series “Singing About God” – using a handful of verses each week helps introduce the perspective I explore.

But it’s not very inspirational, not like May Nothing Evil Cross This Door. It doesn’t have soaring lyrics or a soaring melody – in fact, the melody (written by a much admired friend) is rather light for such a heady subject. This is not a song I would turn to for meditation or spiritual deepening – it’s a song I turn to when I want to talk about Unitarian Universalist theology.

Not that that’s bad – not everything can have the heart-tugging power of Finlandia (which I’ll explore when we get to #159, This Is My Song). One of the reasons we have hymns, curated and collected, is to hold our theology as it is experienced in our congregations. It’s why the hymnals get revised every so often, or supplements get released – because the theology as we experience it in our congregations changes to meet our souls’ and our world’s needs. Even Singing the Journey, released only 11 years ago, feels a little outdated now, because so much has shifted. And yet, this is what we have for now – this, plus the new songs and lyrics written and shared, that soon become the ‘extra-canonical’ works of our sung theology. (Jason Shelton’s “Life Calls Us On” is one among many examples of this – I fully expect it will be included in a future hymnal.)

So… this is a fine hymn – it does what it is meant to, and it’s easy to sing. I’m glad it’s here.

Words by John Andrew Storey
Music by Thomas Benjamin

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