(And now for something completely different:)
Praise where praise is due: Bernadette Farrell’s O God, You Search Me is a pretty good hymn, a pleasant tune, easy to sing, theologically sound and appropriate for use at Mass.
O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down you are before me:
Ever the maker and keeper of my days.
You know my resting and my rising.
You discern my purpose from afar,
And with love everlasting you besiege me:
In ev’ry moment of life or death, you are.
Before a word is on my tongue, Lord,
You have known its meaning through and through.
You are with me beyond my understanding:
God of my present, my past and future, too.
Although your Spirit is upon me,
Still I search for shelter from your light.
There is nowhere on earth I can escape you:
Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.
For you created me and shaped me,
Gave me life within my mother’s womb.
For the wonder of who I am, I praise you:
Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.
The text is based on Psalm 139:
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Must say I love the line from the song “And with love everlasting you besiege me,” which captures “5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” beautifully. God has besieged us, we hide behind our castle walls, trying to keep him out. But he nonetheless lays a loving hand on us. Beautiful.
Nice hymn. See, I don’t hate *all* ‘contemporary’ church music! I owe this praise especially since I have earlier offered harsh criticism of Farrell’s work, such as God Beyond All Names, a tune a bit tricky to sing because of some too-precious by half rhythmic goosing. But the real problem is the incoherent and baffling lyrics that don’t stand up to a moment’s thought.
But this is a happy occasion! O God You Search Me is a perfectly nice song to sing at Mass.
Also sang a Jebbie tune this weekend, with the usual feature of too many dotted figures added to a milk toast tune in a failed effort to lift it to the level of mediocrity. This sets up the traditional War Between the Organist & Congregation, where the organist’s years of training and practice cause her to read the music as written, while the congregation – at least, that minority willing to try to sing – smooths the tune right back out, ignoring most of the dotted figures. In the more extreme cases, typically where the composer has modified each verse individually so as to leave the congregation guessing when to come in and how this particular verse goes, the War ends up silencing all but an intrepid few (me, for example, who read enough music to generally hang with the organist). In the eternal irony that surrounds the Church throughout her history, music supposedly written to encourage active participation ends up silencing even those few who might otherwise try to sing.
So it goes.