Monday, January 4, 2021

283. Seven Last Words Hymn

Yes, it's another Passion of Jesus hymn, now focusing on His "seven words on the cross." It's a hymn I tremble to write. After so many others have treated this subject, and done it so well – I need only mention Thomas B. Pollock's 1870 litany hymn, whose 21 stanzas The Lutheran Hymnal lays out on two facing pages as seven separate hymns (180-186) for a sufficient example – that any attempt on my part to add to their number is surely superfluous. TLH 177 is another example, translated from German, in 10 stanzas. The only worthwhile thing I can possibly add to this literature, I feel, is brevity. So, with no other aim than to cover the material in the fewest words possible, I proceed with prayer. The original tune, written by yours truly this evening in what I meant to be kind of a modernish version of the Lydian mode, is titled SEVEN WORDS.
"Forgive them, Father!" Jesus wailed
As to the cross His limbs were nailed.
Forgive our sins, too, Lord, for we
As good as hanged Him on that tree;
So may we on Your mercy live
That those who hurt us, we forgive.

"Today, in Paradise," He said
To one who nearby hung his head,
"You, even you, shall live with Me."
Help us, too, Lord, such certainty
To cherish, in the hour we die,
And trust His blood to justify.

He told His mother, "Lo, your son,"
And "Lo, your mother" said to John.
Such comforters, Lord, send indeed
In our extremity of need;
And help us be, if so You will,
A help to others faring ill.

"My God! My God!" was then His cry:
"Why leave me, in such shame to die?"
So You, Lord, dealt with Your dear Son,
That You with us might be at one.
Swift comfort shed on all our grief;
Draw near, and help our unbelief.

"I thirst," He murmured, nearly spent,
And yet the proffered draft forwent.
May we, too, spurn the numbing lie
That would the cross's worth deny;
Lord, teach us with pure hearts to crave
The means by which You heal and save.

"It is perfected," He declared:
All that in love You had prepared
Since Adam's guilt brought death to all,
Is done: Mankind from Satan's thrall
Christ has redeemed, His work complete,
The serpent crushed beneath His feet.

"My Spirit, Father, I commend
To You," He whispered at the end.
Lord, like Your Son before He died,
May we, too, in Your hands confide
Our souls and bodies, dearly bought,
And trust in You till our last thought.

P.S. Because I want everyone to admire my cleverness as much as I do, permit me to drop a hint about the tune: there are three signs of the cross in it. Get it? (Sigh.) Anyway, this is, appropriately, the seventh and last of my planned hymns to decorate Lenten sermon series. (The other six include the four "Passion According to" hymns that I wrote late last year, along with this and this.) This time I forbore to include an opening and closing stanza for each run-through, though, because I imagine this being used more by way of a Good Friday Tre Ore service with a stanza preceding or following each homily on the words of Christ from the cross. And like I said, I really wanted to break the record for being the most compact hymn of its kind, if possible. If I didn't pull it off, let me know in the comments. But gently.

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