I’m a little more in love with this hymn today than I was yesterday.
I’ve used it several times – often with services about the arts or knowledge and reason. But even then, I don’t know that I actually meditated on the lyrics, written by Thomas Troeger, now a professor of preaching at Yale (officially the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication – isn’t that a helluva metaphor for preaching?).
But I digress.
The reason I love this hymn a little more is that Troeger’s lyrics rather described my personal theology, which is most decidedly a Universalist process theology. The lyric never defines what the “source of faith and learning” is, but instead invite us to consider the wonder of creation and the act of creating as connected to some source within and beyond us. The lyrics command us to learn and explore and create, and never lose a sense of wonder. And they implore us to use our reason and faith-led, ethical, humanist core to carry out justice and compassion, and to reject things that do not aid in the growth and nurturance of this world.
Just look at these words:
Praise the source of faith and learning that has sparked and stoked the mind
with a passion for discerning how the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing from the wonders we survey
keep our faith forever growing and renew our need to pray.
Source of wisdom, we acknowledge that our science and our art
and the breadth of human knowledge only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation lies a depth we cannot sound
where the purpose for creation and the pulse of life are found.
May our faith redeem the blunder of believing that our thought
has displaced the grounds for wonder which the ancient prophets taught.
May our learning curb the error which unthinking faith can breed
lest we justify some terror with an antiquated creed.
Praise for minds to probe the heavens, praise for strength to breathe the air.
Praise for all that beauty leavens, praise for silence, music, prayer.
Praise for justice and compassion and for strangers, neighbors, friends.
Praise for hearts and lips to fashion praise for love that never ends.
I am weak.
(Also – while the tune has a decidedly Irish lilt, it was a commission, written for the 125th anniversary celebration of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Well met.)
Image is of the seven wonders of the ‘modern’ world.
I believe you might be wise to return to the original text which does define God as the Source of faith and learning.
Here are some discrepancies…yes, capitalization and pronouns matter.
“Praise the Source of faith and Learning” refers to God because it is capitalized.
“God of wisdom” not “source,” capitalized in your text because it is at the beginning of a sentence.
“…depth we cannot sound where your purpose” not “the” purpose, refers to God.
And where the 4 verse that you have quoted comes from, I’m not sure…this one (which I have had for over 10 years) reads as follows…
“As two currents in a river fight each other’s under tow
till converging they deliver one coherent steady flow,
blend, O God, our faith and learning till they carve a single course,
till they join as one, returning praise and thanks to you, their Source.
As far the the 125th anniversary you spoke of, the only account I can find on-line, occurred AFTER I sang this hymn in college. The earlier copyright I found was from Oxford Press in 1987. I found it in 4 different hymnals. This was not an extensive search and as I have to get school going for my children, I must end my research here. Here is a link to the same text I have:
Thank you for inspiring my journey into this hymn. May God bless you and keep you!