Gospel composer C. Austin Miles (1868–1946) was originally educated and trained as a pharmacist, but after achieving some success as a songwriter, he became a full-time music editor for the Hall-Mack Publishing Company in 1898, and he continued in a similar capacity when Hall-Mack merged with the Rodeheaver Company in 1935. Miles’ most famous song by far is “In the Garden.” He provided this story of the song’s composition to one of his colleagues, George W. Sanville:
One day in March, 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 to 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 by 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 full light, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. It was under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.
The specific reference to a garden becomes more clear when we learn that C.Austin Miles was writing about the first Easter morning and the garden in which Jesus was buried. It was here that Mary Magdalene came alone very early, "while the dew was still on the roses."
When Jesus first spoke to her, she thought it was the gardener; but when He called her name, she recognized His voice.
Imagine Mary's feelings, emotions and actions at that moment. She had seen Jesus die on the cross days before. Now instead of anointing His dead body with spices,
He was standing in front of her and speaking to her. Jesus was alive!
We like Mary can experience the risen Christ on a daily basis. We too can "walk and talk" with Him and have the assurance that we are His own.
When we take time to be alone with the Lord and to pray and meditate, we may want to stay in His prescience. But He bids us go" as He did Mary to tell others of eternal love for each of us, His death, resurrection, ascension, His promise to return.