- Singing the Faith: 618 (CD25 #20)
- Ruth Duck
- “Ruddle” by W. Daniel Landes
NOTE: This hymn has been cleared on behalf of the copyright administrator, The Pilgrim Press Permissions Department, for reproduction on local service sheets and also for projection via the Singing the Faith electronic words edition of the hymn book published by Hymns Ancient and Modern. Copyright ownership should be indicated when this hymn is reproduced.
Ideas for use
The directness of this hymn in addressing issues of abuse makes it especially helpful within the context of worship or discussion around this sensitive issue, for example on Women against Violence Sunday. It has also been referenced in the worship suggestions relating to the Methodist Church’s report on marriage and relationships, God in Love Unites Us.
As a commentary on St Paul’s familiar “hymn to Love” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 – see below), the hymn is thought provoking and points up the practical implications of a biblical passage that is too often heard only for its idealism.
More generally, the text lends itself to a wide range of imaginative interpretation. Its examination of the physical suggests the possibility of sacred dance or, perhaps, the use of projected images of different kinds of people and physiques - able-bodied and physically challenged, young and old.
The last two verses, in particular, can be used as statement of belief and accompanying prayer. In a service that is focussing on the gift and challenges of the human body, it might be helpful to sing the whole hymn earlier in the service and speak the last two verses as a closing prayer.
In keeping with Ruth’s aim not to be polemical in her hymns, the text is set to a lilting melody by W. Daniel Landes, particularly suitable for a guitar or keyboard led accompaniment.
This text was written in response to a request for a hymn that applied St Paul’s concept of the body as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3: 16; 13: 4-7) to issues of difference and abuse:*
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3: 16-17)
St Paul’s words are echoed directly at the opening of the hymn (“Sacred the body God has created, / temple of Spirit that dwells deep inside”). Ruth goes on to unpack the implications of Paul’s preaching. She reveals his theology of the body to be not just a guide for the individual or personal relationships but also, as Michael Hawn puts it, “a quality of Christian community”. In verse 3, Ruth aligns this quality to the meaning of Christian love, in lines that recall another famous passage from the same letter of St Paul:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others. . .” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)
Ruth paints a picture of love in action that recalls the example of Jesus, on trial before Herod and Pilate: “Love touches gently, never coercing. / Love leaves the other with power to choose.”
In the hymn's final verse, Ruth intertwines our understanding of the human body with the nature of God and the most sacred area of the Jewish Temple: the Holy of holies:
Holy of holies, God ever loving,
make us your temples; indwell all we do.
For the people of Israel, the “Holy of holies” was the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle (Kodesh Hakodashim); a sacred space that contained the Ark of the Covenant. (See left - as imagined in the wilderness.) Here, God was present, and this is how Ruth develops the term “Holy of holies” – as an image of God’s presence. God is present and ever loving both in us (“makes us your temples”) and in how we behave towards one another (“indwell all we do” – a further direct reference to 1 Corinthians 3).
With words that are both direct and poetically complex, Ruth here combines respect for scripture and tradition with a commentary on human experience and contemporary concerns. In keeping with Ruth’s aim not to be polemical in her hymns, the text is set to a lilting melody by W. Daniel Landes, particularly suitable for a guitar or keyboard led accompaniment.
See Ruth Duck's hymn Pray for a world where every child (StF 527), which also addresses the issue of violent abuse.
* from Ruth Duck’s account in This is Our Song: women's hymn-writing (ed. Janet Wootton, 2010: Epworth Press)
Learn more about Ruth Duck in God in all our experience - the hymns of Ruth Duck.