Mother Spirit, Father Spirit, where are you?
In the sky song, in the forest, sounds your cry.
What to give you, what to call you, what am I?
Many drops are in the ocean, deep and wide.
Sunlight bounces off the ripples to the sky.
What to give you, what to call you, who am I?
I am empty, time flies from me; what is time?
Dreams eternal, fears infernal haunt my heart.
What to give you, what to call you, O, my God?
Mother Spirit, Father Spirit, take our hearts.
Take our breath and let our voices sing our parts.
Take our hands and let us work to shape our art.
This is one of our most haunting hymns – both melody and lyric work together to create an air of mystery, wondering, and mysticism. It is the plaintive call of the seeker, questioning all, finding solace in each other. It is a hymn uniquely suited for us – it is theism and humanism, nature and community, all rolled into one. I know that its author, Norbert Capek, did not live to see the fullness of the modern Unitarian Universalist movement (he was killed by Nazis in Dachau during WWII) – but his prescient lyric speaks deeply of those questions we wrestle with today.
I often imagine this should be a round – and then I realize we’d miss the lyrics if we sang it that way. But I hope others sing it; it is familiar to me and yet I find I don’t use it in my own services. Is it because of the binary language (mother/father)? Is it because of all the assumptions that there is a god? Is it, despite the landing on our hands and hearts, too theistic? As a minister, I both want to challenge our assumptions and give space for our particularities. Does this go too far? Not far enough? Many questions to ponder.
All I can ultimately say is that for me, this hymn speaks deeply to the questions I wrestle with all the time: ‘what to give you, what to call you, who am I?”
[…] say this, because over and over we have “mother God” or “mother spirit” or other paeans to women couched in motherhood. I am grateful for the framing of women and […]