Distraction from the “Chaos Dark and Rude”: A Parting Gift to Americans from Senator John S. McCain

 

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

 

I found hopeful distraction last week in the celebration of the good and rich life of Senator John S. McCain, Republican from Arizona, who served with love, honor, and responsibility to country over political party.

He was eulogized across the nation and in its capitol eloquently and gracefully with shared stories from personal friends, political friends and opponents, and by his loving family.

His biography showed that while he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis, his spirit was fired in the crucible of war, which included five years of imprisonment and torture in the POW camp infamously named the Hanoi Hilton. The experience left him with the scars of battle and torture that he carried with him always, but it also left him with fierce convictions of what was right and what was wrong. While he often had strong words of dissent with his opponents, he never failed to apologize when he felt he had been harsh or wrong, and was always anxious to mend fences in order to move forward together.

Having served his country in war, in the House and Senate, and his family and friends in his personal life, his life’s work reflected the heart of America. His life was evidence of all that was, and still is, right with America.

Watching his funeral on September 1, a TV reporter mentioned the “Navy Hymn” would be played at the opening of the service and quoted a phrase, “the restless wave,” from the opening lines of both versions, the original 1861 version and the 1940 version used today.*

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

I read through both versions and noted the 1861 version, second stanza, opens with the following.

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;

Those four lines ring sadly true of our country today, and, to me at least, the “peace” is that which so many of us are seeking from the current state of fear, hate, and resulting “chaos dark and rude.”

Today our country is not at peace with itself. It is not at peace with our age-old allies. To me, it has lost its moral compass and is careening wildly. But John McCain’s funeral, resonating often and literally with his own words, leaves us with the hope and the fire necessary to restore the peace, equilibrium, and shared humanity I believe we all seek.

After a storm, the restless wave does find peace. The next opportunity to find this peace for our nation will come on November 6, 2018.

 

* The original lyrics from 1861 compose a prayer, in many verses, for sailors lost at sea. The hymn was rewritten in 1940 to include soldiers on land, sea, and air. My source for this essay was Wikipedia, which presented two verses from each version. The Naval Academy publishes numerous verses for the 1861 version.

Navy Hymn–1861 version (for sailors lost at sea)

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren’s shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

 

Navy Hymn–1940 version (for soldiers on Land, Sea, and Air)

Almighty Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
O Christ, the Lord of hill and plain
O’er which our traffic runs amain
By mountain pass or valley low;
Wherever, Lord, thy brethren go,
Protect them by thy guarding hand
From every peril on the land.

O Spirit, whom the Father sent
To spread abroad the firmament;
O Wind of heaven, by thy might
Save all who dare the eagle’s flight,
And keep them by thy watchful care
From every peril in the air.
O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them whereso’er they go,
Thus evermore shall rise to thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.