Be Thou My Breath

My favorite hymn is “Be Thou My Vision,” not merely because it is a beautiful Celtic melody but because I can use its verses to structure my day-to-day activities.

When I rise and open my eyes, I can murmur, “Be Thou my vision.”

As I drive to work in the soft morning light or home on the darkened roads, I can sing “Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

As I read and revise, I can pray, “Be Thou my Wisdom,” and as I blog or journal, I can invoke Christ “my true Word.”

When I engage those around me and work to cherish my relationships, I can call upon “my great Father.”

As I consider my goals for the next day, week, month, and further on, I can return contentedly to “Thou mine inheritance, now and always.”

Upon entering this new ministry and academic season, I found myself composing a new verse to this beloved hymn. All day, every day, I am surrounded by song and singers. This is precious to me and I take my work as a choral accompanist seriously, for I know the deep Spiritual value of singing together. Arizona, however, is currently the Covid-19 capitol of the world, and singing in groups is a uniquely dangerous activity. Rather than shrinking back in fear, though, I don my mask each day and sing the following benediction over myself, my choirs, and my Church:

(scratch track for melodic reference)

Be Thou my ruach, the breath of my lungs,
Thou, my Life-Giver, my Spirit and song!
Be Thou my health ’til the race has been run;
Renew my rejoicing, in weakness made strong.

R. McLaren, 2021

*Taken from the Hebrew text, “ruach” or “ruah” refers to the animating breath and Spirit of God in creation. “Pneuma” could represent an alternate term in the above verse, but I adore the innate musicality of “ruach.”


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