Finding Wisdom in an Old Hymn

One of the great yet largely unknown hymns of the Church is Take My Life, and Let it Be. It was written by Frances R. Havergal, in February of 1874 and speaks of the Christian’s total consecration to God.

I thought of this hymn today while talking with someone and thought too how appropriate it was as I write today on the evening of the Feast of the Annunciation. For, in today’s reading at Mass we read:

Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.
(Psalm 40:7-8)

Now this psalm refers especially to Christ, but also then to us;  for it is not enough to be ritually observant. No indeed, Jesus has established a new manner of sacrifice. The priests of the Old Testament sacrificed something other than themselves: lambs, goats, turtledoves and so forth. But Jesus our High Priest sacrifices himself. In the New Testament, the priest and victim are one and the same.

Hence Psalm 40, above, declares that the sacrifice Jesus offered was not to kill an animal, but to obey, and offer himself. The same pattern is for us, who share in the royal priesthood of Christ.

While not all of us are ministerial priests who serve at the altar, all of us, by virtue of our baptism share in the royal priesthood. Hence we are to imitate Jesus, our high priest.

It is not enough for us to engage merely in ritual observance. In the end we must make the sacrifice of obedience, sacrificing our will, and wishes. Further, we must say with Jesus, “Behold I come.” That is to say, “I offer you the sacrifice of my own life, my mind, heart, will, strength, and body.”

St. Paul says, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as livings sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your act of worship. (Rom 12:1). This is what we offer to God, the gift of our very selves.

Consider this as you meditate on one of the great hymns of the 19th Century. Frances Havergal speaks of how she came to write it:

I went for a little visit of five days….. (to Areley House)….. The last night of my visit after I had retired….; it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with “Ever, Only, ALL for Thee!” [1]

And these are the words she wrote:

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing, always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.

Take my intellect, and use, every power as Thou choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Yes, all for thee Lord. The sacrifice I offer to you is more than my money, more than my time, the sacrifice I offer is my very self, in imitation of your Son. My it be so Lord, ever more truly so, that my sacrifice be whole and entire: ever, only all for thee.

Photo Credit David Paul Ohmer via Creative Commons

Here is a modern version of this old hymn. The video links the words to vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but the hymn can surely refer to us all, whatever our state.

19 Replies to “Finding Wisdom in an Old Hymn”

  1. This song is very beautiful, wow. It is new to me. I love how Frances Havergal described that the couplets “chimed in her heart”… the Holy Spirit inspired her over one hundred years ago and is working in my heart now! Thank you, Msgr. Pope!

  2. Great song that is sung by Chris Tomlin. Wonderful post! I really enjoyed it, especially since I am discerning religious life. Thank you!

  3. Now, Msgr. Pope, this “hymn of the Church” does not appear in any Catholic hymnal in my vast collection! It was, however, found in The Methodist Hymnal. That it is beautiful cannot be disputed.

  4. The song and video projected the lives of the truth leaders that conceived their own life as carriers of Christ love not only to oppressors but to oppresses alike. Beautiful!!!

  5. As a convert from a Fundamentalist church, I’m surprised to hear this hymn described as “largely unknown”.

    1. Well, of course this is a catholic blog and hence you might take that into consideration in what I say. However, even among protestants the hymn is known with some variability given the focus of each denomination.

      1. I, as a Lutheran, also was surprised to hear this hymn described as “largely unknown.” When I saw the text the hymn tune “Patmos” (composed by Ms. Havergal’s father William) immediately came to mind. When my Lutheran parish sings this hymn, the verse “Take my voice…” is sung a capella, in parts. Not all of those singing the alto, tenor, and bass lines are in the choir.

  6. Good to see Catholics embracing yet another part of the Anglican Patrimony!

  7. It’s on the Elmhurst Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, now the United Church of Christ, which I went to as a girl [I am now Catholic], and I’m happy to see it join the Catholic music treasury. I always loved it as a young person, but since being Catholic, it has more or less faded for me. Glad to have it back! By the way, I am now 76, 51 of those a Catholic. God be praised!

  8. However it came to us and through whatever messenger this is a beautiful hymn. Yahwah, Yeshua and Ruakh have such wonders to share with us in Their mysterious ways. And, no wonder those ways are mysterious, for who among us can hope to grasp the Infinite.

  9. I am disabled by asthma, arthritis, possibly Parkinson’s disease, phobias and sensitivity to heat. I cannot be like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I applied to her order but was turned down because I have yet another disability, bipolar depression. The place where I was volunteering shut down, so I was left as practically a shut-in. So, what can I do? Twelve blissful years ago, I became an anchorite and a spouse of the Eternal Triune God. And now I spend my time writing about Our Lord Jesus.

    I am editing and finishing up the fifteenth book. Words are all I have to serve God and man. I hope that someone might enjoy them! I am shut-in, but my world is infinite with Christ to share it with. Thank God for the consecrated life!

    1. Thank you Dr. Victoria,
      Jesus Christ is the Word made Flesh and this Word saved mankind from eternal damnation.
      Your words ARE united with Jesus Christ as the prayer of one monk is – for the salvation of the World.
      May your words be read as a prayer by all who reads your books.

  10. Very often we find that we are willing to sacrifice according to what we think we should sacrifice–what is proper or what seems just according to our version of how the world should be and how we should be in it. But is it not true that Our Lord knows those steps that will lead us to Him and that He perfects that which is not yet perfected? Christ is the Healer, the Deliverer, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, and our Holy Comforter and He unites us together, under One truth and One faith in love for each other and for all mankind.

    So then, let us love one another and unite together, grateful for the crosses He gives each one of us to carry– to perfect His plan for our salvation and for the salvation of the world. Let us seek to restore hope and seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14) with ourselves and with each other, so that we may truly be His hands and feet and prepare the way for His coming.

    So we may all sing together in resounding praise:

    Take my voice, and let me sing, always, only, for my King.
    Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.; and

    Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
    Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.

    Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

    If we are singing for Christ our words, our deeds, and our sacrifices will reveal Him, His love, and His mercy with ourselves and with each other.

    Thank you Father Pope for helping us see Christ in our sufferings and for comforting our faith.

  11. Sounds a lot like the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

    Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
    my memory, my understanding
    and my entire will,
    All I have and call my own.

    You have given all to me.
    To you, Lord, I return it.

    Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
    Give me only your love and your grace.
    That is enough for me.

  12. I usually NEVER leave comments on blogs but I felt I had to because this is a subject very close to my heart. In 2006 I weighed in at a little over 210 pounds and being a 5ft female you could say I was on the obese side to say the least. My mom kept pushing me to lose weight but I always gave the same excuses. I think my main problem was due to lack of confidance, partly brought on by my size. It was like a vicious circle for me. I was depressed because I was too fat’ so I ate to comfort myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had tried dieting on many occasions but the slow progress made me lose patiance and so I started eating again. My longest diet lasted about 3 weeks. I came accross the fat burning furnace at the beginning of 2010 and I bought it on a whim because I’d pretty much given up on dieting and all those lose weight fast’ schemes on the Internet. After a few weeks on the plan I discovered that I actually lost 12 pounds. This gave me the motivation I needed to really put the plan through it’s paces. It’s almost a year of being on the fat burning furnace and I am pleased to announce that I am now a size 10 and loving every minute of it. I have so much confidance now and I feel I have been given a new lease of life. I even found a new partner (a complete hunk) who proposed to me over the holidays. Please please please don’t wait any longer to change your life. I wasted years of yo yo dieting. I’m so glad I managed to turn my life around. Happy New Year to you all. Jo x

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