Saturday, April 4, 2009

TSMSS - Contemplating the Cross

The cross is possibly one of the most recognized symbols of Christianity. Some (wrongly) embrace it as an idol in itself. Others flippantly wear it or display it while exhibiting behavior that is contradictory to its message. We have all likely treated it casually, beautifying for a piece of jewelry or wall-hanging an eye-pleasing replica of that which was rough and crude and barbaric.

Numerous songs speak of the cross and its significance, attempting to describe with mortal words what occurred on a hillside 2000 years ago.

One ancient song has become more dear to me as I have gotten older. It's not a catchy or popular song like the more well-known hymns such as At the Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, or At Calvary. Rather, it's a beautiful, contemplative song reflecting on Christ's sacrifice. . . and our response.

Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most influential Christians of the Middle Ages. He settled disputes between kings, and he influenced the selection of popes. Yet he remained single-minded in his devotion to Christ. He is honored by Protestants as well as by Roman Catholics. The great reformer Martin Luther, who disliked many of the medieval theologians, said "Bernard loved Jesus as much as anyone can."

Today he is remembered for his hymns of devotion to Christ. "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" comes from a poem of seven sections, each section focusing on a wounded part of the crucified Savior's body -- his feet, knees, hands, side, chest, heart, and head. The words compel us to look at the cross until the depth of God's love overwhelms us.

SOURCE: The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen & Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale, 2006

Here's a beautiful rendition of this song with scenes from The Passion of the Christ.



O SACRED HEAD NOW WOUNDED

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown
How pale thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
'Twas all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for Thee.

WORDS: Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153
Translated from Latin to German by Paul Gerhardt (1656)
Translated from Latin to English by James W. Alexander* (1830)
MUSIC: Hans L. Hassler, 1601
Harmony by J. S. Bach, 1729
*Here's the original long poem as translated in 1830:

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
Be sure to go by Amy's blog for more songs to bless your weekend!

Have a blessed Palm Sunday!

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8 comments:

Deborah said...

That was beautiful. I think I've heard it before, or may be the melody. Watching the video, I'm thinking I'll pull out by tape of the Passion of Christ and watch it this weekend. Thank you for sharing this.

Cathy said...

I love that song, Linda, especially the last verse. I posted it last Easter.

Michele Williams said...

Beautiful song! Thank you so much for sharing! Love it!

A Stone Gatherer said...

Beautiful, timeless song! And Fernando to sing it! Ahh.... what a wonderful Saturday morning! Thanks Linda!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Every time I read one of your TSMS posts, I am even more convinced that we are kindred spirits! I have loved this hymn since I was a child, but I'd never read the original poem. Thank you so much for sharing this...

Xandra

Angela said...

It made me cry.....We sing this at Mass....Thank you precious one for sharing this with us,,and I thank God for how it has touched my spirit..and brought me to His throne in worship, and a humble heart..((hugs))

Tara said...

Incredible. As one of the ladies said above, definitely timeless.

Lisa writes... said...

A sobering and beautiful reminder of the passion of our Lord...