Monday Morning Melody

We are now in what is commonly known as Passion Week, so I want to choose a hymn that will help to guide our thoughts to the cross. The words to today’s hymn are attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), a monk whom Martin Luther thought of highly, calling him “the best monk that ever lived, whom I ad­mire be­yond all the rest put to­ge­ther.”

Whether or not this monk wrote this particular hymn (he did pen “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee”), I am thankful it was first translated from Latin to German in the 17th century, and then later into English in the 19th century. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) wrote the melody, and the harmony was beautifully added two centuries later by Johann Sebastian Bach. Just think, it took this little poem hundreds of years to be transformed into the hymn as we know it!

There are actually at least ten verses, but I prefer the three we sing (as printed in the Baptist hymnal). If only those translators had known they could’ve stopped after three! You can read all ten stanzas here.

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 anguish,
When 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.

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.

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