Sunday, January 22, 2023

500. An Upside-Down 'Stabat Mater'

Remember my upside-down Dies irae? Well, I decided to make the last addition to Bountiful Hymns a similar "upside-down" recasting of the Stabat mater, a medieval hymn looking at Jesus' passion through the point of view of the Virgin Mary, which has some good points but, I think, pulls focus off Christ's atoning work. I also suspect it of having an influence on the later development of Catholic spirituality in ways that double-underline my previous concern. In the book I'm using the modifier "anti-" instead of "upside-down," but less in the sense of "opposed to" than "a suggested substitute." The author of the original Stabat apparently took his departure from Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2:35, but I take mine from 1 Timothy 2:5-6. Unlike the Dies parody, this one isn't a stanza-by-stanza, point-by-point recasting of the original, but more a case of starting over at the point where I think it went wrong and taking it from there. I also couldn't resist taking a snide poke at "Were you there when they crucified my Lord." The tune, appropriately, is the same STABAT MATER that I used for this hymn.

Jesus, though the crowd stood scorning,
Mary, John and others mourning,
Fought the fight, and He alone.

Samson of the world's salvation,
He in bonds and degradation
Wide His arms reached to atone.

Naked, scourged, distended, bleeding,
For His slayers' pardon pleading,
Powerless He might have seemed.

Yet for sacrifice He suffered;
More than mankind owed, He offered;
Fallen Adam raised, redeemed.

Divination, necromancy,
Pious vapor, wish, and fancy
Take us not to where He died.

No, we did not see Him dying,
All our trembling naught supplying
That His blood does not provide.

Nor may we, pierced through our spirit,
Claim thereby the slightest merit,
Lest the gift of Christ be lost.

Not the sympathetic mother,
Nor the grief of any other,
Adds a straw's worth to the cross.

If you must the scene envision,
See instead the crowd's derision,
Desperation, yea, despair.

Paint yourself not loving, grieving,
Understanding or believing,
But the need that puts you there.

Look upon what Christ is doing,
Adam's walk with God renewing,
His heel on the serpent's head.

He dies, Eve's mistake reversing;
Lives again, new life dispersing,
Even unto those long dead.

To a gracious God He leads us;
Heav'nly food on earth He feeds us;
Dresses us in garments pure.

His baptism anew begins us;
His word's lively action wins us
Both to follow and endure.

He the keys of heaven gives us
And through chosen men forgives us,
Lest we falter on the way.

He breathes out on us His Spirit,
Guiding us till we inherit
Heaven's kingdom on that Day.

When your conscience you chastises,
God not merely sympathizes;
For Christ's sake He calls You clean.

Let no fear of condemnation
Hide from you this consolation,
Glowing through that Passion scene.

Seek no other mediator;
Let Christ be the sole translator
At God's throne of your desires.

Honor to none other render;
Christ remains the lone Contender
That the hard-pressed heart requires.

P.S.: To be frank, I don't seriosuly expect anyone to sing this. But I think folks could profit from it as a devotion, especially alongside the original Stabat. And to be even more frank, the idea to write this came about because I needed a hymn to fill a blank page in the book, required by another hymn that otherwise would have had a page-turn in it.

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