Be Thou My Vision

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m musing on the Irish hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.”

But first I want to review who St. Patrick was.  He was a fourth-century Briton, not an Irishman. His parents gave him a solid Christian upbringing, but he didn’t find Jesus for himself.  Raiders captured him as a teenager and sold him for a slave in Ireland. There he met the LORD.  He served for six years before he escaped and made his way home.  But he couldn’t stay home.  God sent him back to Ireland, this time as a Roman Catholic bishop to evangelize the country where he had been a slave.  The Lord showed Himself mighty in Patrick, and he made thousands of converts.

And we complain about the situations God puts us through, as if the Lord God can’t show Himself mighty in any trial that comes our way! (But I digress…)

An unknown Irish poet wrote a poem in the eighth century. In 1905, Mary Elizabeth Byrne translated the words to English. Around 1912, Eleanor Henrietta Hull versified the translation, that is, she gave it rhyme and rhythm in the English language. In 1919, the poem was first published as a hymn, set to the old Irish melody, “Slane.”

Here are the English lyrics:

Be thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole Armor, be thou my true Might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

The Methodist hymnal published this song without the third verse, so we rarely see it now.  But think about the richness in these words!

Be thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;

What if the Lord was our Vision? What if we saw people and situations through His eyes? Would we behave differently?

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

What if everything that wasn’t of the Lord, for His honor and praise, meant nothing to us? Would the things we consider so important suddenly drop out of our lives? (This particular line keeps prodding me. Beware of reading it too thoughtfully.)

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

What if we really valued God as our best thought? Would daily details and difficulties seem less worrisome? His presence is our light; why should we let darkness prevail?

Be thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word;

What if we really valued the Word of God as the strongest Wisdom? What if we threw out worldly philosophy and psychology that doesn’t square with the Bible? What if we esteemed this world’s teaching as the foolishness it truly is? Could the Word of God transform our minds and lives?

I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

What if we truly desired closeness with our Creator above all else? Would we be willing to cut activities and entertainment to make our hearts more fit for His dwelling? Is oneness with God what we want, or will a meeting with Him every day or so suffice?

Be thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole Armor, be thou my true Might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

What if we don’t really know how to fight? What if we stopped fighting in our own strength and let God protect us, arm us, and empower us? Could we find victory in our battles with the world, the flesh, the devil, and people who oppose us?

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

What if we forgot to consider money and people’s opinion when God called us to do something? Would we do more?  What if we really let God be our treasure, the most valuable thing in our hearts?

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!

The Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, has promised us heaven’s joys. What if we remembered that when the world falls to pieces around us? Would we have more peace?

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

No matter what comes, I want the Ruler of the whole universe to be my vision. What about you?

The Christian music group, Selah, recorded a beautiful version of “Be Thou My Vision.” And if you’re interested in a fascinating read about St. Patrick’s evangelism, for children and adults, try Flame Over Tara.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

-Miss Darcy

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