Bright as fire in darkness

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Bright as fire in darkness”, words attributed to Stanbrook Abbey. We have already had one of their other compositions, “When Jesus comes to be baptised”, on 14 January.

This is a very short hymn, comprising just three verses, each four lines of five or six syllables. Yesterday’s theme of the Word of God appears here too, revealed at the end of verse 1: “Bright as fire in darkness, sharper than a sword, lives throughout the ages God’s eternal Word”.  Note that ‘Word’ is capitalised to make it clear it refers to the person of the Trinity revealed in Jesus.  And as with yesterday, the Word is seen to be active – fire and sword are not static images, nor are they signs of safety. There are risks involved when we engage with the Word of God.

The second verse also refers to the ‘word’ – “Christ, your eyes of mercy see our sins revealed; speak the word that saves us, that we may be healed”.   Forgiveness, salvation and healing are not three separate things but three aspects of the work of the Word of God.  Note that this time ‘word’ is not capitalised – is there a meaningful distinction between the person of the Word who lives throughout the ages, and the spoken word that saves us?  Is salvation not through the Word himself, rather than the spoken (or written) word? 

In the last verse the first two lines are a standard doxology (praise to the Trinity) followed by “compassed in your glory, give the world your light”. The reference to light brings us full circle to where we started – ‘bright as fire’. So may we be.

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1 thought on “Bright as fire in darkness”

  1. I am a bit puzzled by a hymn book which has five hymns on “Penitence”, NONE of which actually has any words of confession which say “sorry” for our sins. It’s true that two of them admit the existence of “our sins” (this one and “Purify my heart”), and there are various petitions for “mercy”, but I feel the Book of Common Prayer’s exhortation “Wherefore let us beseech him to grant unto us true repentance …” is strangely relevant!

    The other thing that puzzles me is how confused the writers seem to be about how to speak to the different persons of the Trinity. In this hymn we seem to be talking of Christ in verses 1 and 2, so why is verse 3 suddenly a petition to all three?

    However, having registered my unease with various of John Barnard’s tunes with previous hymns, let me say that I appreciated this one. The words were probably sung to Caswall (“Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains”) and John Barnard is quite correct to think they need a more striking melody. Well done John.

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