A Reflection for Today

Hymn reflection. These old treasures of English hymnody are largely unknown to younger generations. I share this one today in fitting contemplation of our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. The music sung below only uses four of these stanzas, but the totality of the text tells the full story.

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!

Here the king of all the ages,
Throned in light ere worlds could be,
Robed in mortal flesh is dying,
Crucified by sin for me.

O mysterious condescending!
O abandonment sublime!
Very God Himself is bearing
All the sufferings of time!

Evermore for human failure
By His passion we can plead;
God has born all mortal anguish,
Surely He will know our need.

This—all human thought surpassing—
This is earth’s most awful hour,
God has taken mortal weakness!
God has laid aside His power!

Once the Lord of brilliant seraphs,
Winged with love to do His will,
Now the scorn of all His creatures,
And the aim of every ill.

Up in Heaven, sublimest glory
Circled round Him from the first;
But the earth finds none to serve Him,
None to quench His raging thirst.

Who shall fathom that descending,
From the rainbow circled throne,
Down to earth’s most base profaning,
Dying desolate alone.

From the Holy, Holy, Holy,
We adore Thee, O most High,
Down to earth’s blaspheming voices
And the shout of Crucify.

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow,
Where the blood of Christ was shed,
Perfect Man on thee did suffer,
Perfect God on thee has bled!

Text: William J. Sparrow-Simpson, created for John Stainer’s oratorio, The Crucifixion

3 thoughts on “A Reflection for Today

  1. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Note the simplicity of the hymn tune which serves the words. Hymn-writing is almost a lost art today as most melodies offered up as “hymns” are designed for soloists, not congregations, making people hold back in singing in uncertainty. These simple hymn tunes allowed the text to be prominent.

    To clarify, there are more traditionally-minded churches musically speaking that use new hymnals that have discarded almost all of these hymn melodies that have stood the test of time. The new song writers mean well, but don’t grasp the important of writing specifically for congregational singing. I’m not against new hymn settings, but by discarding so many of the timeless hymn melodies, they lost a model for how corporate singing best works.

    You can’t have meandering melodies designed for soloists and expect people to sing out.. You just can’t. Tom and I noticed at one conservative church how few people sang out. Weak singing is produced by uncertainty. One Sunday, the same church sang an old favorite that had a very simple but lovely hymn tune. Everyone belted it out by contrast. That’s what I was referring to. I’m not even going to visit the train wreck of pop-music in church.

  2. Judi says:

    I know exactly what you’re talking about, Ingrid. My husband and I have commented on it many, many times after many, many Sundays at church. My 89 year old dad, who had just retired from being a chaplain at a VA hospital, and is thus back in a larger corporate worship service, with no hymnal to follow the music, just words projected on a screen, says the same thing. He can’t follow, and doesn’t know where they are going. Yup. And further, when you throw out the whole canon of church hymns as so many modern churches have done, we have lost a part of our spiritual heritage, singing the same hymns that our forefathers and mothers have sung. Something significant is truly lost.

  3. Judi says:

    Oh! and thank you for sharing this beautiful hymn. I so love it when you do that. Sharing great hymns of our spiritual heritage, many of which I am not even familiar. It’s a gift to open. Every single time.

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