Saturday, December 12, 2015

From My Nature Journal: Creation Doxology

OK, OK, I know the Doxology is something perhaps best not to mess with. I mean, most of the Christian world sings it, almost as if it might have dropped straight out of the heavens like the Coke bottle in The Gods Must be Crazy. But I confess, I have messed with it. Twice. But before I share my mess, let me give a little background.

What do you know about the Doxology Of course, the Greek word simply means ‘praise words,’ and there are many ‘doxologies’ penned and voiced over the millennia. But I’m thinking of the simple song sung in many traditional and contemporary settings. What do you know about it? Have you thought about that? Who is its author? When was it written and what was the context of its writing? Do you have an idea? (While you think, listen to a couple fine guitar renditions here by Michael Gungor and Gary Lowry, the first more jazzy and very fun to watch, the second more classical.) Many think the text must come from the Bible, or that at minimum it’s one of those ancient songs of praise that goes back a millennium or more. If not that, certainly at least the music must have been composed by one of the great western chorale or oratorio writers like Handel or Bach. But neither would be true. Both text and tune were borne out of relative obscurity.

The text is from the last stanza of a charming eleven-verse poem written by a 17th Century Englishman, Thomas Ken. Ken was an Anglican priest and instructor of boys at Winchester College, Oxford. He lived at a time when it was considered sacrilegious, or at best tacky, to write new lyrics for sanctioned church hymns, especially if they were not verbatim from scripture. So he wrote this poem -- included in a collection titled Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College, 1674 – with strict instructions that the songs be used only in the students’ rooms for private devotions. This particular poem is entitled Awake My Soul and with the Sun, intended for morning devotions; it is a delightful little poem, filled with instruction for devout living; find the complete eleven-verse text here, worth checking out. But I find it more than curious that a song written to be celebrated privately has now become one of the most well known songs in Christendom! What a sense of humor (and patience) God must have!

And the tune, at least the one most often used? Its composer was even more obscure than Ken. He was Joseph Mainzer, a little known miner turned priest, who, in spite of challenging political life circumstances that caused him to move from Germany to Brussels to Paris to England, was gifted in creating simple tunes that could appeal to the masses because they were so easily learned.

With that as context, maybe I now find less reticence to mess with it, and more confidence in sharing my mess here! I find from my notes that I wrote verses 2-5 below several years ago, while flying somewhere over Iowa on my way back from work in Chicago! That surprised me! I’m not sure what inspired me to do so at such a time, but I guess it just goes to show that one who finds nature an important spiritual pathway can zone out of his surroundings, no matter how incongruous, and tune into another place of meditation while he seeks God! Either that or just how crazy creation lovers are…

Here it is, Creation Doxology:

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Praise the Creator. Father’s plan:
Imago Dei -- woman, man.
For His good pleasure all are made --
Earth, beast and sky -- the heavens laid.

Praise Christ for Whom the stones cry out,
Trees raise their hands. All nature, shout!
Creation, wait expectantly
On tiptoe or on bended knee!

Praise Spirit, our Emmanuel:
Wind, breath, and life. God’s life to tell,
Calls all to mind, moves as it wills,
Creative wind our spirit fills.

Praise Trinity, the Three-in-One,
God’s Holy Spirit, Father, Son.
All nature sings as Light appears
Telling the beauty of the spheres.                                                

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

God’s blessings be yours this Advent day.

~~ RGM, from an earlier entry in my nature journal,
Adapted for my blog December 10, 2015


  1. Our family sings this every night as we tuck the kids into bed. ��