In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

In the Garden

In the past year or so, largely through channels on the Internet music service Pandora (see the Pandora box at the lower right side of this page), I've become familiar with many great old church hymns, and love to share them with friends and family. Recently I've started asking them what their favorite hymns are. I thought it would be fun to put as many of them as I could up on my blog, with lyrics and videos (where available) of especially good performances. I already have a number of my favorites linked from this page (click on the Hymns link under "Labels" on the lower right side of the page).

Recently I asked my mother what her favorite hymn is. Without hesitation, she named In the Garden. This hymn--perhaps better described as a "gospel song"--was written by pharmacist-turned-Christian music publisher C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), and was first published in 1912. According to Miles' great-granddaughter, the song "was written on a cold, dreary day in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in New Jersey that didn't even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden. " Miles himself related that the song was inspired by his reflections on Mary's experience at Jesus' tomb on the morning of Christ's resurrection.
My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she place her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away . . . Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I. . . .

. . . I awakened in full light, . . . gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.
Here are the words to this simple, beautiful, and most comforting hymn:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.


And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.


I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here is a fine video featuring In the Garden sung by contemporary country artist Alan Jackson:

I, too, have a special affection for In the Garden. In the closing scene of Sally Field's Academy Award-winning film Places in the Heart, the congregation of a small country church is taking communion as the minister reads 1 Corinth. 13 and the choir sings In the Garden. Communion is passed from person to person, and the viewer suddenly realizes that some of these people are living and some are dead; some were hurt or mistreated in the film's story, and others were the ones who did the hurting or mistreating--including the last pair, the late husband of Sally Fields' character and the young black boy who had shot him in a drunken stupor, and who whispers "Peace of God” to him as he takes communion from the older man. It is one of the most moving scenes I've ever seen in any film--and maybe the best for conveying the power of forgiveness, as well as the truth of eternal life.

One more thing--if you haven't already, tell me what YOUR favorite hymn or gospel song is, and I'll devote a post to it!


It's A Wonderful said...

That's such a beautiful song. Another of Mom's favorites are "How Can I Keep From Singing." I love it too, perhaps because I found out that it's a favorite of Mom's. Now I'll have to think of some I like...I'll get back to you on that.

Thomas Fleming said...

Happy Day! Here's my link to "How Can I Keep from Singing"!

Anonymous said...

Oh can one choose ONE favorite hymn?!? One I can think of offhand is "Guide Me O, Thou Great Jehovah (or, "Great Redeemer)". Especially if it's sung by a Welsh male choir for Remembrance Sunday!