Hymn by Hymn

STLT#9, No Longer Forward nor Behind

No longer forward nor behind I look in hope or fear;
but, grateful, take the good I find, the best of now and here.
I break my pilgrim staff, I lay aside the toiling oar;
the angel sought so far away I welcome at my door.

For all the jarring notes of life seem blending in a psalm,
and all the angles of its strife slow rounding into calm.
And so the shadows fall apart, and so the west winds play;
and all the windows of my heart I open to the day.

I need to learn how to play the piano – and by sight – fast. Here’s another hymn I am unfamiliar with, and it took a little time to get the hang of the melody. Once I felt it, though, I longed to hear the harmony, which looks to be a counterpoint.

The lyrics are an interesting addition for a people on the move – “I break my pilgrim staff”…”the best of now and here”… there is something very Zen about this lyric, something very present. This isn’t “one more step” or “I’m gonna keep on ’til I find it” or “come and go with me.” This is the all too infrequent reminder in our faith to be here now, be present to this moment of life. It’s what we hope for when we meditate or pray…I know it’s what worship leaders hope for the people attending…. that for a few moments, anyway, what you seek is found here, in this moment, in a place where the angels can speak and our hearts can open.

May we all have moments such as this.

 


Words by John Greenleaf Whittier, set to an English folk tune

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