Attende Domine—Draw Near, O Lord
May 25, 2019
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There is a hymn that I so very rarely hear, that has become a prayer for me in recent years—Attende Domine. I can tell you exactly when I heard it in at least recent memory—it was in March 2014 when one morning a Carmelite friar of the Province celebrated Mass for us, and that was the opening hymn we sang, out of all possible ones we might have chosen.
The hymn sounded familiar, but it seemed to me as if it had been decades since I’d last heard it. It is so profoundly and genuinely plaintive—sincere, vulnerable-seeming, and humbly trusting.
Well, I think I’ve heard it twice since then, most recently at a Sunday Mass a few weeks ago. Yet over the past few years, the hymn has frequently enough come to mind and filled my heart seemingly from out of the blue. Whenever it does, I let myself enter in as though into a prayer. This is especially comforting in vulnerable moments, but at other times, too, even when I haven’t a clue why it just sprang to mind.
A few weeks ago, it was as if my soul was awakened when I heard it within. Later that day, the musical one of my three sons mentioned hearing it at Mass. (He didn’t know the impact it has on me).
That particular day, a couple of Scripture verses came to me spontaneously when he shared about the hymn. They were Isaiah 8:6 and Mt 11:29. They seem to have occurred to me out of the connection they hold for me to the spirit or inner disposition Attende Domine expresses for me.
The first, Isaiah 8:6, says—“…This people has rejected the waters of Shiloah that flow gently…” (These “waters” refer to the stream that flows into the pool of Shiloah in Jerusalem, its slow current symbolizing for me the silent, divine protection of God.)
The second, Mt 11:29, reads—“I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Have mercy on us, Lord, Jesus, our Savior:
Burdened with sin, we implore you!…
Send forth your Spirit; heal your humbled people!…
O gentle Savior, Great is your compassion!…
Remember, Jesus, you gave all to save us;
Dying for sinners, you endured the Passion:
Savior, immortal, Grant your gift of freedom!
Somehow all of the above speaks to me of an infinite and very interior (inmost) gentleness and strength—and the mystery of the dynamism of the two as they come to us in the Person of Jesus. It’s like the reality that’s woven in us at the heart and then reflected out in human history. Gentleness rejected (Isaiah 8:6) brings pain; gentleness with pain, brought back to Jesus’ pain, instead of “pushback” brings the inflow of his healing stream, his mercy blooming in that fuller flowering which is the Holy Spirit’s fruitful, freeing Presence.
It reminds me also of 1 Cor 15:43—“Weakness is sown, strength rises up.”
Written by A Listening Heart