Behind the Song Sunday: In The Garden
Dr. Adam Geibel, a music publisher, asked pharmacists and composer, C. Austin Miles, to write a hymn that would bring hope.
Miles retreated to ” a cold, dreary and leaky basement in New Jersey that didn’t even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden,” according to his great-granddaughter. Miles turned to his Bible and read John 20:18 about the meeting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden, after the resurrection.
Miles said he could see the scene unfold before him while he read the scripture passage. He wrote the song and thought that it would make a great Easter song.
Miles would later explain the experience this way: “One day in April 1912, I was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20—whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm. As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, “Rabboni!” My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away. John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly be John. As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni!” I awakened in sun light, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it had since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.” The popular hymn was first published in 1912. The song was originally made popular by Billy Sunday Evangelistic Campaigns and many people around the world fell in love with this hymn. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans recorded a popular version in 1950, In the Garden was one of the hymns Elvis loved to sing and Governor Earl Kemp Long of Louisiana had the words of the hymn inscribed on a bench by his grave.