Abide with me

Good Monday Morning to this week 19 of 2020 (week 8 of lockdown)

Hymns accompany us, especially through hard times. Yesterday I was still in deep thought after a touching sermon of Christine Caine as the channel went forward to the old yet very relevant hymn:

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.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

The opening line starts with Luke 24:29, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”, and the second last verse draws on text from 1. Corinthians 15.55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”.

Abide; to stay, live somewhere, stand by, endure with, hang in, accept or act in accordance with. 

The hymn tune was composed b William Henry Monk, an English organist in 1861 and best know for his composition Eventide used for this hymn.

The author of the hymn, Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), was an Anglican priest and vicar of All Saints Church in Brixham, England. For most of his life, Lyte suffered from poor health, and he would regularly travel abroad for relief, as was the tradition in that day. His daughter, Anna Maria Maxwell Hogg, recounts the story of how “Abide with Me” came out of that context.

Dictionary of Hymnology, Vol. 1 puts it this way:

The summer was passing away, and the month of September and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure.

His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness and the possible danger attending the effort were urged to prevent it, but in vain. “It was better”, as he used to say often playfully, when in comparative health, “to wear out than to rust out”. He felt that he should be enabled to fulfill his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well-founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers, gave them a sermon on the Holy Communion. . . .

In the evening of the same day, he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, ‘Abide with Me’, with an air of his own composing.

The hymn is popular across many Christian denominations, not only at funerals but was said to have been a favorite of King George V and Mahatma Gandhi, played at many events be it Anzac day or even the FA cup final about 15 minutes before the kick-off of the match!

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Each verse ends in the plea “abide with me,” making the hymn a sustained call for God’s personal presence in every stage and condition of life. The hymn resonates deeply with the hearts of those who feel their need of God.

Here the beautiful version I came across yesterday by Audrey Assad

Wishing you a blessed day, with the wish of this hymn that the Lord abide with you!


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