A Memorial Day prayer
Memorial Day was begun as a way to honor the Civil War dead in the 1880s. Known as Decoration Day until fairly recently, it is a way for the nation to remember all those who fight for the nation, and especially those who pay the ultimate price.
With our fighting men and women in harm’s way, this Memorial Day takes on a special meaning. It will be a bittersweet reminder that many thousands are away from home, serving the nation in far-off lands. We think of no greater editorial opinion than expressing the hope they return to us safely.
We make that opinion known by means of a hymn known to us all, though slightly changed to include all the services. The Navy Hymn, known also as Eternal Father, Strong to Save, was written by Englishman William Whiting. It became the U.S. Navy’s hymn soon after, and no service in the Academy Chapel at Annapolis concludes without its singing. It was revised in the Missionary Prayer Book in the 1930s to the version we show here. Sung to John B. Dykes stirring tune, Melita, it is a favorite of all denominations, and gained a bittersweet resurgence during the days following the assassination of President John Kennedy.
We present it in an ecumenical version as the hope of all, no matter what creed or religion one follows:
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’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 God, the Lord of hill and plain
O’er which our traffic runs amain,
By mountain pass or valley low:
Where ever, Lord, Thy brethren go,
Protect them by they guarding hand
From every peril on the land.
O Spirit, whom the father sent,
To spread abroad the firmament:
O Wind of Heaven, by Thy might
Save all who dare the eagle’s flight,
And keep them by the watchful care
From every peril in the air.
Almighty God 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 praise from air and land and sea. Amen.