The “Fourth Week”: Week Twenty-Nine/Session Three.
Theme: The Contemplation of the Love of God.
Our reading for today: St. Ignatius SE 236-7.
I will consider how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth; that is, He acts in the manner of one who is laboring. For example, He is working in the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest – giving them their existence, conserving them, concurring with their vegetative and sensitive activities. Then I will reflect on myself. (St. Ignatius SE 236)
I will consider how all good things and gifts descend from above; for example, my limited power from the Supreme and Infinite Power above; and so of justice, goodness, piety, mercy, and so forth – just as the rays come down from the sun, or the rains from their source. Then I will finish by reflecting on myself. (St. Ignatius SE 237)
Two powerful verbs. Two life-changing words.
Action words that actually seem to betray the concept of ‘action.’ These are slowing down words. Verbs that are often overlooked in a society like ours that runs on fast.
Yet it’s clear from the Scriptures that those who desire to discover God and His workings in this world, must learn to adjust our body clocks, slowing ourselves and our pace down to a speed that will actually allow for these two action verbs to occur in our lives.
Maybe it’s because of my musical background, but each time I’ve stopped long enough this week to consider and reflect on Ignatius’ suggestion that we consider and reflect, a familiar hymn has popped into my head for me to consider and reflect on. Today is no different.
The hymn that caught my attention with today’s Ignatian reading was written back in 1885 by a Swedish man named Carl Gustav Boberg. The words were eventually translated into German, then into Russian, where it was set to a Russian melody, and finally into English where it has now become one of the best known hymns ever written. Boberg’s poem, O Store Gud became better known as How Great Thou Art and was popularized by vocalists George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows as they performed it regularly at Billy Graham evangelistic crusades across the globe. In a national survey done by Today’s Christian magazine in 2001, How Great Thou Art was voted the second most popular hymn, finishing right behind Amazing Grace!
It’s intriguing to me that this popular hymn was written by a man who actually took the extra time to consider and reflect on what could have been something we all pay very little attention to: our immediate surroundings. Let me explain.
According to music historian, J. Irving Erickson: “Carl Boberg and some of his friends were returning home to Mönsterås, Sweden from Kronobäck, where they had participated in an afternoon church service. Nature was at its peak that radiant afternoon. Presently a thundercloud appeared on the horizon, and soon sharp lightning flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. The thunder pealed in loud claps. Then rain came in cool fresh showers. In a little while the storm was over, and a rainbow appeared. When Boberg arrived home, he opened the window and saw the bay of Mönsterås like a mirror before him… From the woods on the other side of the bay, he heard the song of a thrush…the church bells were tolling in the quiet evening. It was this series of sights, sounds, and experiences that inspired the writing of the song.”
The author, Carl Boberg himself gave this account about the inspiration behind his poem:
“It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared. When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of ‘When eternity’s clock calling my saved soul to its Sabbath rest.’ That evening, I wrote the song, O Store Gud.”
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, My God, how great Thou art!
Amazing what can happen when one man or woman, like Carl Gustav Boberg, takes that extra time to consider and reflect.
My prayer: Father God, then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art! How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art! How great Thou art! For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What glorious aspect of my everyday world am I overlooking because I’m running so fast through it? What might it look like for me to stop today so that I might better consider and reflect on the glories of God that surround me?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.