HYMN 130 Open My Eyes that I May See
German: Öffne mein Auge, Lass mich seh’n
Text: Clara H. Fiske Scott (1841-1897) Tune: Clara H . Fiske Scott (1841-1897)
1. Open my eyes, that I may see Glimpses of truth thou hast for me; Place in my hands the wonderful key That shall unclasp and set me free
R/Silently now I wait for thee Ready, my God, thy will to see Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
2. Open my ears, that I may hear Voices of truth thou sendest clear; And while the wavenotes fall on my ear Everything false will disappear.
3. Open my mouth, and let me bear
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart; and let me prepare
Love with your children thus to share.
Many people know this hymn by heart. It is the kind of hymn one sings around the campfire, or before a Bible study meeting. It makes the hit parade of favorite hymns in America. Its story is, as usual, a surprise.
Clara H. Scott was born just outside of Chicago. Early on she showed promise as a musician and began studying at the first Music Institute in Chicago, led by C. M. Cady, when she was still in her teens. As a woman she was a pioneer in the music field, publishing The Royal Anthem Book in 1882, the first collection of anthems by a woman. In 1896 she published a collection of songs, Truth in Song: for the Lovers of Truth Everywhere.
She appears to have been outside of the Moody Sankey group of writers. That may be because she is said in some places to have been a Christian Scientist. I can’t quite confirm that. The information on her is scanty indeed. We do know that she went to teach at the Ladies’ Seminary in Lyons, Iowa, near Clinton. There she met her husband, Henry Clay Scott. They married in 1861 and moved to Chicago where she continued her composing and writing. She wrote this hymn in 1895.
In 1897, she and a friend went to Dubuque for the funeral of an old friend. As they were riding in a buggy, the horse was spooked and ran amok. Both she and her friend were killed in the accident. Her death was noted in newspapers around the Midwest. While there are detailed and vivid accounts of the accident and her death, very little is said about her accomplishments, other than that she was a hymn writer. That she wrote the tune is also of interest. Not many women of the day could call themselves composers. Many times they hid their identities in a pseudonym.
So it is amazing to see that her hymn has remained on the list of top hymns. Out of the hundreds of thousands there are, that is a true accomplishment and credit to her gifts. It does show that if a hymn meets a need and the tune is good, people will find it important and edifying to their faith.
Her prayer that the Lord will make us see and hear and speak better is a prayer deep in Scripture. Our faith is a tradition with surprises. We can be looking at something we have seen for all our life times and suddenly, eureka! We see it anew and it is filled with meanings we have not noticed before. It doesn’t happen every day, but we wait on the Lord to be shown something new and see the false disappear from our sight. They don’t come unless we pray to be able to see and hear them.
Many of you may have grown weary of your situation, and think it is without surprises. Maybe you are at your cabin or still in your home as usual. Sing this song and let its prayer help you see the wonder of God's works right there. Pray that you will be filled with the reverence that comes with a new vision of the miracles you see happening around you.
This hymn, first published in Best Hymns No. 2, by Elisha A. Hoffman & Harold F. Sayles (Chicago, Illinois: Evangelical Publishing Company, 1895) Since then it has been published in over 120 hymnals in the past century. Sometimes the tune has been attributed to others, but the scholars are fairly certain Clara wrote it. She was generously helped by the Chicago publisher in her work and for that we can be thankful.
Calvin Yawn on the calliope, a hoot