Holding Love in?

Sunday we closed worship with Hymn # 1 in Singing the Living Tradition, “May Nothing Evil Cross Your Door.”  It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

If I had the hymnal with me, I’d be able to tell you who wrote it, instead, I Googled.  It originated as “House Prayer” by Louis Untermeyer.  It’s a lovely, haunting song, and yet …

Here are the words:

May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill-fortune never pry about
these windows; may the roar and rains go by.

Strengthened by faith,
the rafters will withstand
the battering of the storm.

This hearth,
though all the world grow chill
will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching your lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms into a shrine.

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout
and, though the sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out and hold love in.

It’s the last line that’s getting me.  As a house prayer, just lovely.  As a UU Hymn … maybe not.  I’m not one who likes messing with lyrics of the old traditional hymns, but the problem I see in our small congregation is not so much the holding love in as it is taking the love outside “the house.”  Is this what we wish to do in our congregations?  Hold Love in?  As if it could/should be contained.

No answers to this.  Just pondering.  Like I said, the song’s been haunting me this week.  May it haunt you, too. 


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9 Responses to Holding Love in?

  1. Charlie Talbert says:

    Sorry, but I’d think May Nothing Evil would have to be better than Domenic the Christmas Donkey … although I’ve never heard it (and don’t think I want to.)


  2. uuMomma says:

    Okay, Charlie. thanks for sharing … Domenic the Christmas Donkey had taken up residency in the loop of tunes in my head. Now it will be May Nothing Evil again.


  3. Charlie Talbert says:

    I was happy to find today a link to this hymn, sung during a service of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, NH.

    That it’s not professionally produced or sung adds to its warmth and poignancy.



  4. uuMomma says:

    Pretty close …. thanks for the idea.

    You know, I really do like the song. I really do. Honest.


  5. jules says:

    I unfortunately don’t know this hymn but am now dying to hear it.

    I’m an amateur songwriter and sometimes hastily write down words hoping they’ll fit with the meter of what’s happening and later try to change them but with much difficulty.

    Not that I’m advocating changing the words but perhaps this line would work for you instead.

    “… and a cradle to love’s end.” does it fit with the meter?



  6. Thanks for this post, Momma. My home congregation sang it last Sunday as part of a service about a service trip our youth group had taken this summer. They and their advisors (including one of my daughters & my spouse) went to New Orleans, where they spent several days gutting two buildings (3 residences) – hauling out furniture, appliances and personal possessions, then ripping down walls. Someone else will determine whether the structures are sound enough to rebuild, or will be razed. The reflections written by the youth and adults who went on the trip are haunting. The song was poignant in this context, and I think the trip was all about holding love in and spreading it around.


  7. uuMomma says:

    Charlie: I totally get the use of that song in that instance. Oh, my.

    mom: I agree. I like it. Still, as the song has stuck with me this week, it is those words that I’ve been pondering on in the context of a congregation that, quite frankly, ought to be spending some time meditating on what it means to do both: hold love in AND spread it around.


  8. mom says:

    Interesting – the langauge for me evoked a home and the idea od holding love in seemed very meaningful to me — not that love shouldn’t be shared outside the home (or congregation), but that we need to be mindful to care for one another, to be present, to love, to listen, to respect. Holding love in. I like it.


  9. Charlie Talbert says:

    This is one of my favorites … haunting it is … although we don’t sing it too often. I think I heard my minister mention once that there’s another version, or maybe it’s the same one with just a different title, that she prefers.

    Several years ago we sang it during a healing service, after our administrative assistant had been attacked while alone in church. No dry eyes after that one.


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