Thy nature and thy name is Love
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,409
    Today in his Wednesday catechesis on prayer, Pope Benedict interpreted the story of Jacob's wrestling with an angel. He said, "The Church’s spiritual tradition has seen in this story a symbol of prayer as a faith-filled struggle which takes place at times in darkness, calls for perseverance, and is crowned by interior renewal and God’s blessing. This struggle demands our unremitting effort, yet ends by surrender to God’s mercy and gift."

    I'm reminded of Charles Wesley's verse treatment of this same story, which reads the passage in a similar way.

    COME, O thou Traveller unknown,
    Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
    My company before is gone,
    And I am left alone with thee;
    With thee all night I mean to stay,
    And wrestle till the break of day.

    I need not tell thee who I am,
    My misery and sin declare;
    Thyself hast called me by my name,
    Look on thy hands, and read it there;
    But who, I ask thee, who art Thou?
    Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

    In vain thou strugglest to get free,
    I never will unloose my hold!
    Art thou the Man that died for me?
    The secret of thy love unfold;
    Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
    Thy new, unutterable name?
    Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell;
    To know it now resolved I am;
    Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    ’Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue
    Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
    Though every sinew be unstrung,
    Out of my arms thou shalt not fly;
    Wrestling I will not let thee go
    Till I thy name, thy nature know.

    What though my shrinking flesh complain,
    And murmur to contend so long?
    I rise superior to my pain,
    When I am weak, then I am strong
    And when my all of strength shall fail,
    I shall with the God-man prevail.

    My strength is gone, my nature dies,
    I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
    Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
    I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
    I stand and will not let Thee go
    Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

    Yield to me now, for I am weak,
    But confident in self-despair;
    Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
    Be conquered by my instant prayer;
    Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
    And tell me if thy name is Love.

    ‘Tis Love! ’tis Love! thou diedst for me!
    I hear thy whisper in my heart;
    The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
    Pure, universal love thou art;
    To me, to all, thy bowels move;
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.

    My prayer hath power with God; the grace
    Unspeakable I now receive;
    Through faith I see thee face to face,
    I see thee face to face, and live!
    In vain I have not wept and strove;
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.

    I know thee, Saviour, who thou art.
    Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
    Nor wilt thou with the night depart.
    But stay and love me to the end,
    Thy mercies never shall remove;
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.

    The Sun of righteousness on me
    Hath rose with healing in his wings,
    Withered my nature’s strength; from thee
    My soul its life and succour brings;
    My help is all laid up above;
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.

    Contented now upon my thigh
    I halt, till life’s short journey end;
    All helplessness, all weakness, I
    On thee alone for strength depend,
    Nor have I power from thee to move;
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.

    Lame as I am, I take the prey,
    Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
    I leap for joy, pursue my way,
    And as a bounding hart fly home,
    Through all eternity to prove
    Thy nature and thy name is Love.
  • Thanks for reminding me of this great (and lengthy) hymn. It brought back memories of my first big church job - St. John's Methodist in Watertown, MA (4 manual 1923 E.M. Skinner organ). If I remember correctly, Erik Routley's setting was a choir favorite. I think, however, the hymn has been paired with many tunes. Kathy, I'm curious which tune you think best serves the text.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,409
    Hmm, not sure about the tune. I doubt I have ever (or will ever!) hear this sung.

    Cyberhymnal suggests a number of tunes. I would choose Melita, for its familiarity, or Samuel Wesley's Wrestling Jacob, for its suitability to the text; I particularly like line 4's tonal shift, which resonates for me with the text's sense of mystery.
  • vincentuher
    Posts: 134
    If you have the BBC Hymn Book (which is still used in some schools in England), Hymn 4 is four verses of this Charles Wesley hymn paired with the marvellous tune 'JABBOK' by Cyril Vincent Taylor. I highly recommend the tune as well as getting a copy of 'The BBC Hymn Book with Music'). For me it remains the perfect tune for the text. The four verses chosen are 1. Come, O thou Traveller unknown ; 2. In vain thou strugglest to get free ; 3. Yield to me now, for I am weak ; 4. 'Tis love, 'tis love, thou diedst for me!

    There is also a tune called 'VERNON' that is very singable in the arrangement in The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal USA). The tune is a traditional American tune collected in early shape-note books and attributed to Lucius Chapin. It is a tune that fits in with those delving into American inculturation by way of Billings, Shakers, shape-notes, and Appalachian songs.

    Kathy, many thanks for making the connexion between the Catechesis and this hymn and providing the full brilliant text.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,409
    Thanks for the tunes, Vincent!

    Here is a commentary on the hymn by a British philosphy professor, Catherine Osborne, whose blog's title is pretty funny:

    This is Routley's:

    Do you recognize this tune?

    (Sorry I haven't learned how to link yet...)