Ionică Bizău

Five Variations on Abide With Me

Abide With Me is one of these lovely songs touching the heart. Written by Rev. Henry Francis Lyte, the lyrics emphasize our need for God's presence throughout every stage of our growth in faith: justification, sanctification, and glorification.

I chose the last part of every verse of the song to create the context of the variation, hence coming up with five of them.

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1. Help of the Helpless

In the spiritual darkness, we realize the need for God in our lives. We can think of it as a Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy). The first notes have an intentional feeling of insecurity, illustrating how helpless we are without God.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

2. O Thou Who Changest Not

In contrast with the ephemeral things that the world can provide, God is unchanging and worthy of adoration — Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest"). The bass line is quite constant, giving a sense of stability.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

3. Through Cloud and Sunshine

With a brighter perspective, resembling a Credo, this is an affirmation of the strong trust we have in God. Through every circumstance, we invite Him into our walk in faith.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

4. I Triumph Still

This variation begins with a majestic start, transitions into a dissonant segment, and ends majestically once again. The focus of this piece is on the unique personal experience that each individual has. Through the darkest moments, we triumph in adoration — because God is there with us in the middle of the pain — Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy").

I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

5. In Life, in Death

As we are reaching the end of the journey, by continuing to point our attention to the Cross and Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God") we are assured that life is in the hands of God. By introducing a modulation into a meditative state, the moment of death is illustrated (sad, but peaceful), followed by the hope of resurrection.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

As the disciples of Emmaus, let us invite Christ in our hearts, not as a simple guest, but to become the Host:

Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.

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