By Barb Arland-Fye
Before Mass began, our choir sang a two-line song that has nestled in our hearts. I glanced over toward Tom’s music stand to see whether he had the words to “Take, O Take Me As I Am.” I prefer to have music in front of me, just in case.
But Tom looked at me and said, simply, “We know this one.”
Memorization has little to do with “knowing” this song. We know it because the words permeate our souls. We ask God to accept us as we are, summon out what we can be, set his seal on our hearts, and live within us.
Cheryl Brogla-Krupke, our choir director at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, introduced us to John L. Bell’s song. She and our pastor, Father Joe Wolf, had discussed the song; both of them appreciated the lyrics and music.
A note on the GIA Publications sheet music states that “This verse is primarily a quiet song of dedication. It may be used as people walk forward to the front of the sanctuary during an act of commitment; it may be used when people have been confirmed or it may simply be used to offer ourselves to God at the end of an act of worship or some intentional gathering.”
“Take, O Take Me As I Am” has served as an after-Communion meditation for our parish during Lent. But I hope we’ll continue this meditation at least through the 50 days of Easter.
For me, the song conveys a sense of the pilgrim journey we’re all on, preparing for our own resurrection into eternal life with Christ. We’re a work in progress, striving to be Christ-like, but acknowledging our sinfulness.
“This song has become endearing to the people,” Cheryl told me when I shared with her my love for John Bell’s song. “I think this song places us where we ought to be every moment of the day.”
But, when we leave church, we may become distracted by the everyday cares of the world. “We forget because we want to be in control; this song is saying, ‘I can’t do it by myself,’” Cheryl said.
“Our Lord wasn’t above asking for help. He was asking God for help (at his crucifixion). But we forget that. We take over the worries from God.”
She recalled a saying of her beloved mother, Billie Brogla, who died six days after Easter in 2011. “She used to say, when you worry, you’re telling our Lord that he isn’t doing a very good job and you’re taking over.”
The simple melody of “Take, O Take Me As I Am” soothes the soul and allows singers to zero in on the message, the acknowledgement that “I can’t do it without you, Lord.”
When I look out at the congregation as we sing this song together, I see in their eyes what I’m feeling in my heart and what I’m sensing among the rest of the choir.
Yes, we enter Easter time with hope, joy and a heightened awareness of the Lord’s presence in our lives and in all of Creation. And I have a song in my heart that reminds me why I choose to be a Christian and ask the Lord to summon what I shall be.