On Saturday, Joe Biden’s victory speech included:

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.

Father Michael Joncas wrote the hymn in 1976 on hearing of the death of the father of his friend,  Doug Hall.

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord, “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand

The snare of the fowler will never capture you
And famine will bring you no fear
Under His wings your refuge, His faithfulness your shield

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand

You need not fear the terror of the night
Nor the arrow that flies by day
Though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand

For to His angels He’s given a command
To guard you in all of your ways
Upon their hands they will bear you up
Lest you dash your foot against a stone

And He will raise you up on eagles’ 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 hold you, hold you in the palm of His hand

The hymn is clearly a paraphrase of Psalm 91:

Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High
and abide in the shade of the Almighty
say to the Lord: “My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!”

It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you with his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.

You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
you, it will never approach;
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.

Your eyes have only to look
to see how the wicked are repaid,
you who have said: “Lord, my refuge!”
and have made the Most High your dwelling.

Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.

They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.

You set your love on me so I will save you,
protect you for you know my name.
When you call I shall answer: “I am with you.”
I will save you in distress and give you glory.

With length of days I will content you;
I shall let you see my saving power.

Widely as the hymn, On Eagles Wings, is known and loved, I’m also interested that it is the hymn that Biden refers to rather than the Psalm that it paraphrases.

Psalm 91 is one of the ones set for Compine (Night Prayer). Those who pray the Daily Office will, hence, know it well – probably by heart.

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