When in Nashville on a Sunday, I fly like a homing pigeon to a church I used to attend in the ancient days when I had my abode in Tennessee. At the time, I lived way out in the hilly green countryside so the flavor of my visits to this church were somewhat that of a long-awaited event. It was a day in the town and a visit to a spiritual home all at once. The long drive in on a clear, early morning. Highways grey like a clear river, birds (there are always birds singing if you listen) chanting their own hymn, coffee on the way down, and then, the sanctuary. High wooden walls in an arcing curve that put me in mind of the bow of a ship in which my sailing would be strong and smoothe. Slim brick pillars and slim stained glass windows, the faces of saints and elders and legends vying for my eyes. Then, worship.
I loved that church. Headed there yesterday and had the grand treat of hearing one of my favorite hymns, a song I don’t think gets near enough play sung by the choir during the Eucharist. The hymn is Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent (I’ve copied the words below) and to me, there is a quiet behind the words of this song that is like a vast night sky seen from the window of a lit home at night. Every time I hear this song, I am aware of eternity behind it, looming up in the windows of my mind. I always sing it with a bit of a sudden stillness in me. The rendition yesterday was exactly how I’ve always wished to hear it sung- a few, mystic, uncanny little bells at start and then the bare bones voices, first of a woman with a high, clear voice, then the choir in a simple mesh of harmonies. The words themselves and the grandeur behind them bearing down on our unsuspecting heads. I couldn’t record it, but maybe the sound of it, even in imagination, will kindle your soul as it did mine. Hope your day is a graced one.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!