Celtic Moment: ‘Be Thou my Vision’

These are trying times. But music can offer a source of comfort and hope. An old Celtic hymn which has inspired millions worldwide has a third verse that reads:

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight
Be Thou my whole armour, be Thou my true might
Be Thou my soul’s shelter, be Thou my strong tower
O raise Thou me heav’nward, great power of my power.

“Be Thou My Vision” is the modern title of the hymn whose roots go back to a 6th century poem written by the Irish poet, Saint Dallan Forgaill. The words are a cry to God for protection, using symbolic words like battle shield and sword to invoke the power and protection of God, based on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians that refers to the “shield of faith” and the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6: 16-17). The best-known English version of the hymn, with some minor variations, was translated by Eleanor Hull and published in 1912. Since 1919, it has been commonly sung to the well-loved Irish folk tune “Slane”. Here is a soulful rendition of this classic hymn by the Brazilian-born American tenor, Nathan Pachecho.

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