HYMN FOR PENTECOST 25 Hannah the mother of Samuel
The Story of Hannah and her song
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: James E. Clemens
TO GIVE THE CHILD AWAY
To give the child away,
The child of all her prayers,
It was the prayer that Hannah prayed,
A child whom she could bear.
All gifts from God are giv'n
So we can serve the good
And taste the very fruit of heav'n
That blooms in heaven's wood.
To ask for what is God's,
To nurture all his gifts
Gives glory to the God of love
In whom we’re called to live.
The children of our prayers
Are never ours alone.
They're given us so we can share
God's bounties with his own.
We watch them sally forth,
And pray that we have raised
A Christian who can walk the earth
And show us heaven’s way.
Copyright Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc. 2015
I spend a fair amount of time with my great nieces and nephews, and especially the younger ones. I cannot imagine how Hannah could give her young child Samuel into the care of the old priest Eli. Eli appeared to have been rather good to Samuel, despite his being an indulgent father who spoiled his wicked sons. Not an unusual thing. Letting children have their way no matter what, is not really loving, it can create selfish narcissists.
The most touching part of the story in many respects is how Hannah brings Samuel a little coat every year when they go to visit the temple. That rends my heart, as I believe the writer, a master story teller, knew it would. He knew how to show with a small detail or two much about the characters of the account. God did bless Hannah with other children so she had them to tend to and raise. But still…
We all know that a child is a gift from God. And it is our vocation to raise the child up and then let him or her go. If we think the child is our possession, and never let them learn to fly, we do damage.
So raising a child is a delicate thing: one has to be loving and kind, but also careful not to indulge the child’s insatiaable wants and desires, teaching them to act with kindness toward others, learning to help them curb their desires and channeling them in the way they should go. Scripture is filled with advice on this and it is wise and helpful.
We can do that best when we understand the child is not ours. Anyone who has spent time with the next generation, knows well that the person one has been given to nurture has a will that is not our own. The best way to raise a child is to have deep regard for their person, their otherness from us. Our vocation is to tend and nurture their gifts with all our hearts, praying for wisdom along the way.
Hannah regarded the gift of Samuel as something to sing about as she did in a wonderful song. Mary the Mother of our Lord knew it well enough to sing her own version in the Magnificat. Both are filled with the joy and wonder of God's gift of a child to them--and God's purposes. It will not be all roses.
When Simeon sang his Nunc dimittis to Mary as they were presenting Jesus in the temple, Mary heard his words that prophesied pain and suffering along with joy. A sword would pierce her heart. That is another side of this relationship. Mary learned when the twelve year old Jesus left her for the temple that he was not her own, but God’s.
It was a painful moment. Later she would watch as her child suffered and died on the cross. She felt what we all feel when our children suffer. Once again, because they are not us, we cannot stop their suffering, even though many parents on facing the suffering and death of their children would gladly suffer and die for them. It is an exquisite pain. Mary looking up at her son dying on the cross certainly felt it. Artists down through the ages have drawn her suffering for her son. We think of Michelangelo’s Pieta and thousands of other such pictures
The writer of the books of Samuel had great insight into the families he is telling us about—parents and children, from shepherds to kings. Elkanah, Hannah's husband telling her he is worth ten sons to her! Saul as father, David as slayer of Goliath, friend of Jonathan, husband and lover, Abigail, Michal, Bathsheba, doting father who almost loses his kingdom to his son and old man, Absalom, Solomon. These are some of the most powerful narratives in all of literature. Each individual teaches us how to live or not in these intimate, and troubling, relationships even as they fulfill their vocations as kings and priests. We have all been given our family and friends so we would not be alone. But these characters, even more wonderfully, are necessary to the story of our salvation. Jesus comes right out of this lineage, families of all sorts, and knows us in each corpuscle of his body. God made flesh. As John Donne has it, in his crown of sonnets La Corona (not the virus!) on the Annunciation,:
“Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy womb.
The hymn is from my collection of hymns Festival and Martyrs. My thinking about Hannah and Mary are in the reflections above. Writing the text got me thinking of many things, as one does at an advanced age when they say, everything reminds one of everything. The tune by James Clemens is fun.
I do not have a musical version of Clemen's tune, but the text can be sung to many SM tunes such as Southwell.
This is a choral piece on Sonnet 2 in La Carona--a bit modern
Johan Sebastian Bach's Magnificat/a glorious version of Mary's Song in preparation for Advent and Christmas
Jesus the Harmony would make a nice Christmas present. It can be read devotionally over the entire year, one poem for every day.
Back cover "With these 366 sonnets, remarkable in artistry and number, Gracia Grindal has made literary history. The scriptural and theological knowledge that supports these poems is vast, but it is the imagination infused with the holy in poem after poem that reveals the poet's grace and skill and the astonishing work of the Spirit." --Jill Baumgartner, Poetry Editor, Christian Century, and professor of English emerita, Wheaton College