Day 18 - The Day Thou Gavest Lord has ended

My Favourite Hymn

I find it very difficult to name one favourite hymn, as there are many that I love to sing and my “favourite” at any one time depends on the occasion. However, one of which I’m particularly fond, and which we don’t hear as often as some others, is “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended”. It is sometimes associated with funerals, and indeed was sung at the service for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last year, but is in fact an evening hymn.
I really like the tune, St Clement, to which it is normally sung, but even more I find the words especially uplifting. They describe how prayer is constantly offered throughout every 24 hours as those saying their morning prayers in the west take up the theme from those who have prayed before sleep further east. I recall this thought coming to me strongly when I went to the Holy Land nearly 30 years ago. I woke from dozing on our night flight to Tel Aviv and looked out of the window. Far below us, I could see what looked like jewels in the darkness, which I thought must be the lights of the Aegean islands, but there was something else which I found a much more compelling sight. On the horizon was a straight line of golden light as the dawn broke way over in the east. I have no idea how far one can see from that height, but I guess that it was possibly over Iraq or maybe even further. I was immediately reminded of the penultimate verse of this hymn,

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky, 
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

It would be many hours before the sun woke those we’d left behind in the UK, but in time their prayers would join again with those being offered in Asia, Africa and Europe, before linking up even later with the prayers of the Americas, and moving on to Australasia to begin the cycle again.

Although the hymn was written at a time when many would have believed that the British Empire would go on indefinitely, the last verse gives us the assurance that, even when “Earth’s proud empires pass away”, God’s Kingdom will stand and grow for ever.

Frances Wookey

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