No one would argue that there is a very real effort underway to remove or at least cheapen the Christian principles this nation was founded upon. There are some who would like to erase that fact altogether, and in fact, some textbooks are succeeding. It is evident in the military as well. The latest being an attempt by at least one group to force the military to include atheistic chaplains in its ranks. This, to me at least, goes against the very foundation of why the Chaplain’s were mandated in the first place. Faith has been a part of our military service from its very beginning. It was the freedom to worship as we pleased that helped to launch our nation’s military initiative and our first battles for independence.
Today, for Military Monday, I share with you the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save. Upon reading this, ask yourself whether or not the military shares much of the same faith based heritage our nation was founded on.
Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless
wave, Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst
sleep; Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
According to the Department of Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command, the hymn was written by a schoolmaster and clergyman of the Church of England, the Rev. William Whiting. In the following year, 1861, the words were adapted to music by another English clergyman, the Rev. John B. Dykes (1823-1876). Rev. Dykes’ also composed many other well-known hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Lead, Kindly Light,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Nearer, My God to Thee.” In 1879 the late Rear Adm. Charles Jackson Train, an 1865 graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis was a lieutenant commander stationed at the Academy in charge of the Midshipman Choir. In that year, Lt. Comdr. Train inaugurated the present practice of concluding each Sunday’s Divine Services at the Academy with the singing of the first verse of this hymn.
In no way does this hymn marginalize or otherwise attempt to hide some very important tenants of the faith. The Trinity is fully represented in its verses. It captions the creation event, and the time when Jesus soflty spoke and calmed the sea. When I read these lyrics I am reminded of just how big a role the Christian faith has played in military heritage and the formation of many military leaders throughout its history.
I am also reminded from the lyrics of the great danger the brave men and women of our armed forces put themselves in daily to help ensure the freedoms we have to worship, as well as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are protected. I am reminded to pray for our military; for their safety; their health; their families; and for the protection of the heritage from which it grew.