Lyrics of Lent

The music played before the beginning of a worship service is always a great time for me to pause and redirect my thoughts.  While this is a common practice for me on Sunday mornings, the musical beginning of my mid-week Lenten worship holds a special place in personal preparation.  Lent is one of the few times before worship where I have the opportunity to participate in a hymn sing.  Not only do I get to hear the beauty of the instrumental, but I can offer my voice as an offering and a prayer.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

The words of the hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are believed to have been taken from a lengthy, medieval poem called, Rhythmica Oratio.   This poem is stated to have seven parts.  Each section focuses in on one part of Jesus’ body (feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face) as He suffered during His crucifixion.  The original German title to this hymn was “To the Suffering Face of Jesus Christ.”

What Thou, my Lord, has 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,
And grant 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.

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Putting music to poetry seems to be a time honored practice.  Believers through the ages have been converting the psalms into songs as a part of their worship to God.  While this hymn takes on a very personal note in its reflection to Christ’s suffering and dying on the cross, I can see a similarity in the plea and of the depth of feeling expressed by the psalmist,

“Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!” (Psalm 25)

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 enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well.

As the season of Lent points us to the work that Christ has done on our behalf, it is difficult not to reflect on how our sinfulness was the reason in which Jesus had to suffer.  Due to our disobedience to God’s will, we live in the consequences of our sinful choices.  Among those consequences is our own mortality.  Yet as we face death, we have reason to hope.  Looking to the cross of Christ, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice has paid the penalty for our sin.  We need not live in fear of dying, for Jesus has paved the way for our resurrection, by His resurrection.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

Osbeck, Kenneth W. (1985) 101 More Hymn Stories. Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, MI.