Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Beneath the cross of Jesus kneeling

One of the most loathsome hymns I know is Elizabeth Clephane's "Beneath the Cross of Jesus/I fain would take my stand," perfectly wedded to the überschmaltz tune ST. CHRISTOPHER (Service Book & Hymnal No. 482). It's enough to make the angels puke! (See illustration.)
Much better is this Passion hymn by Icelandic poet Hallgrim Petursson, which in its translation by C. V. Pilcher begins in a similar way. It can be sung to WER NUR DEN LIEBEN GOTT (Lutheran Worship No. 420).

Beneath the cross of Jesus kneeling
Dawns on my soul the endless day;
There, deeper than all ties of feeling,
Doth God His boundless grace display;
Thence flow the mystic healing waves;
There all my stains the Savior laves.

God wrought for man, His love forth-showing,
When Moses smote the rock of old;
And, lo, through Israel’s camp on-flowing,
Broke forth the longed-for flood, and rolled,
New strength, new joy, new life bestowed,
On lips that quaffed it, pure and cold.

God wrought for man, mankind redeeming,
When Christ was pierc’d by Roman spear,
And, o’er the thirsty world down-streaming,
Forth gushed a fountain, cool and clear,
Till souls, those blessèd waters near,
Forgot in joy sin’s desert drear.

Beside that well for aye abiding,
New strength, new joy, new life I gain;
Within that cleft securely hiding,
No one can harm, no sorrow stain;
Here rests the blissful soul serene,
Here faith the healing draft can glean.

Lord, let my heart, this gift receiving,
Sing one glad anthem to Thy praise;
And may the stream, Thy pierc’d heart leaving,
Refresh and heal me all my days:
Thus by Thy blood my life restored,
Eternal thanks to Thee, O Lord.

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