The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, June 13, 2014

JFK Funeral, a Postscript

I received an email today from a friend who had read yesterday's post. He asked if I could pass along the words of one of the hymns our Naval Academy Catholic Choir sang on the White House lawn during JFK's funeral. He was particularly interested in the hymn, Above the Hills of Time the Cross Is Gleaming, which is sung to the tune of Londonderry Air. Londonderry Air is perhaps more widely recognized as the music of Danny Boy

[An interesting note, though: the words to Danny Boy, considered by many of us who are of Irish descent to be a true Irish ballad, was actually written in Bath, England by Frederic Weatherly, an English lawyer. And even more disheartening to us Catholics with roots in the Republic of Ireland, the tune -- Londonderry Air -- originated in County Londonderry now in Northern Ireland and is often played as the victory anthem of Northern Ireland. The tune has a rather complex history and is used as the music for the lyrics of well over a dozen songs.]

Anyway, here are the requested lyrics to the hymn we sung at the request of Mrs. Kennedy:

Above the hills of time the cross is gleaming,
Fair as the sun when night has turned to day;
And from it love’s pure light is richly streaming,
To cleanse the heart and banish sin away.
To this dear cross the eyes of men are turning,
Today as in the ages lost to sight;
And for Thee, O Christ, men’s hearts are yearning,
As shipwrecked seamen yearn for morning light.

The cross, O Christ, Thy wondrous love revealing,
Awakes our hearts as with the light of morn,
And pardon o’er our sinful spirits stealing,
Tells us that we, in Thee, have been reborn.
Like echoes to sweet temple bells replying
Our hearts, O Lord, make answer to Thy love;
And we will love Thee with a love undying,
Till we are gathered to Thy home above.

These beautiful lyrics were written by Thomas Tiplady, an English Methodist minister who was also a prolific writer of hymns. Born in 1882, he served as a chaplain in the trenches during the worst days of World War One and died many years later in 1967.

While I'm at it, I might as well include the lyrics to another hymn we sang that day. It happens to be one of my favorites, the Navy Hymn, or Eternal Father, Strong to Save. As I recall, because of time constraints, we sang only the first verse, but I might well have forgotten some of the details of that morning. It was, after all, over 50 years ago. As a naval aviator, I have always appreciated the third verse I've included below:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 

O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!  

Here's a video of the Naval Academy Men's Glee Club, singing Eternal Father during a 2008 concert in San Antonio, Texas.I, too, was a member of the Glee Club, although several decades earlier.


As I said yesterday, that day in 1963 was a sad day for the entire nation, and a day I will never forget.

God's peace...

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