On Eagles Wings: A Hymn For America

The votes have been counted. The American people have spoken. Our majority voice has declared the next White House administration. Beginning January 20, 2021 it will be President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Today, I join with all the many who are feeling positive emotions! It is a happy day for me, personally. I have carried a crushing weight of anxiety, frustration, and dread for the past four years – and it has lifted away! The amount of peace in my soul is even greater than I expected, and that is priceless.

With that said, there is a lot of raw emotion happening in America. We are a nation of strong opinions, robust debate and passionate feelings. This is an important part of our democratic process. To those who are experiencing negative emotions, I know that feeling, and I can express sincere empathy. I will never, ever forget how devastated I felt after the 2016 presidential result. It took time to process and grieve. I found my way forward as an involved citizen, and extended my best wishes and hope to the administration. I even performed at the inauguration – not as a political endorsement, but as a patriotic gift for the country that I love.

Friday January 20, 2017

Here are some reasons why I feel peace:

  • The 2020 victory is historic. I understand how deeply important this outcome is to our brothers and sisters who have not received enough representation, and do not feel safe. Their voices have been validated and heard. Watching the scenes of celebration and listening to their powerful stories and tears of joy also brings me joy and peace.
  • I believe we will have a kind, empathetic, honorable President. Joe’s life story overcoming devastating hardship, devotion to family, hard work and public service makes him a person any American can be proud to have representing us.
  • I rejoice in the barrier that has finally been broken for my daughters, granddaughter and posterity. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is a bold, dedicated human being who is passionate about helping those who need an advocate. She has found her calling and her voice, as all women should!
  • I truly believe if we will each do our part to be good, kind, informed citizens – and give this administration a fair chance to serve – it will soothe our weary souls, and lift us up toward our potential.

I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses.

It’s time for our better angels to prevail.

In his victory speech last night President-Elect Biden gave an inspiring message. He is a man of faith, and that shone through.

Of particular interest to me was when he talked about his favorite hymn. That made me sit up and get excited!

Here is what he said:

In the last days of the campaign, I’ve been thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and to my family, particularly my deceased son Beau.

It captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America. And I hope it can provide some comfort and solace to the more than 230,000 families who have lost a loved one to this terrible virus this year.

My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully this hymn gives you solace as well.

“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,

“Bear you on the breath of dawn,

“Make you to shine like the sun,

“And hold you in the palm of His Hand.”

And now, together — on eagle’s wings — we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do.

President-Elect Joe Biden

The Story of The Hymn

“On Eagles Wings” was written in 1979 by Father Michael Joncas and performed as a gift of comfort at the wake of his friend’s father who had died suddenly.

The text is comprised from biblical verses found in Psalm 91, Exodus 19, and Matthew 13.

Father Joncas did not feel this was his best work, so he didn’t send the hymn to a publisher until about a decade later.

Following the devastating 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Cathy Keating, the governor’s wife, requested that “On Eagle’s Wings” be played at a memorial for those killed. Many in our grieving nation heard this hymn for the first time and it brought comfort.

Following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 the hymn was performed at many memorials, adding another deep connection with the hearts of America. In 2007, the hymn became internationally recognized when it was performed at the funeral for the renown Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. Since then, the hymn has been performed during several papal mass ceremonies in Rome, and it is a staple at Christian funerals, including for Beau Biden.

I absolutely love this hymn. I would be thrilled to see it officially included in the new LDS hymnal currently being compiled. However, we can always begin utilizing it for special musical numbers.

I can’t think of a more beautiful, hopeful message for this moment in our history – when we are mourning the loss of so many of our loved ones, and grieving the pain of so many wrongs and injustices.

Composer’s Reaction To Biden’s Speech

Father Michael Joncas, the hymn’s composer, told America Magazine:

“To quote the President-elect, ‘I was honored and humbled’ to hear him quote ‘On Eagle’s Wings’ as he set out his initial vision for the country. I pray that the song can serve in some way to help the healing of our nation.”

Performed by Kitty Cleaveland

God is aware of you, dear friend, and He has a plan.

Stay safe, and well – Holly

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