To mourn thee, well beloved…

While thumbing through the hymnal, as I sit in the stark stillness of a Friday morning, words jump off the page…

Ah, keep my heart thus moved
to stand thy cross beneath,
to mourn thee, well-beloved,
yet thank thee for thy death.

I’m a word-guy. I love words, and I love the “right word” especially — that difference between “lightning” and “a lightning bug” as Twain put it.

I make my living (such that it is right now) mostly through words, putting them together in such a way that might prove most persuasive and beneficial for my clients.  Good FridayYet, this day is just one of those days in which my words just fail.  Words of others, though, knock me down.

I try (because that’s just what I do) to put Good Friday into words.  With its feelings of hopelessness and hopefulness, both desperate and concurrent, I’m not willing or able to just let the moment or feeling of Good Friday simply be.  Being so moved, I find it difficult to “just sit with it” and let the bitter joy of Jesus’ crucifixion silently speak whatever it wishes to speak.

In that way, I am reminded of Peter, always seeming to interject words when they really aren’t necessary. “Lord, it’s good that we are here…” he eagerly says at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:4), or “Lord, you’ll never wash my feet, and a breath later, “…Then Lord, not only my feet but my hands and my head as well!” he dramatically exclaims at the Last Supper (John 13:8-9).  I too want to capture the moment, to try to put into words what I feel, such as when I sit in a silent church with a dear friend for like I did early on this Good Friday morning.

But on Good Friday, the best I can do is indeed just sit, in silence.  On occasion I feel moved on to perhaps pick up the hymnal, and amble through the hymns of Jesus’ passion, and let poets do what they do best.

There, without any music or voices to add to or take away from them, the written words shout to the inner soul:

168   O Sacred Head Sore Wounded

In thy most bitter passion
my heart to share doth cry,
with thee for my salvation
upon the cross to die.
Ah, keep my heart thus moved
to stand thy cross beneath,
to mourn thee, well-beloved,
yet thank thee for thy death.

 

585   Morning Glory, Starlit Sky

…Therefore He who shows us God
Helpless hangs upon the tree
And the nails and crowns of thorns
Tell us of what God’s love must be.

Here is God, no monarch He,
Clothed in easy state to reign.
Here is God, with arms outstretched,
Aching, spent, the world sustain.

 

And of course, there’s that hymn that thoroughly overwhelms me every time, not only for John Ireland’s sweet and simple and perfectly aligned tune, but most especially for sheer beauty of Samuel Crossman’s heart-warming and heart-wrenching words…

458   My Song Is Love Unknown

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?

In life no house, no home
my Lord on earth might have;
in death no friendly tomb
but what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heaven was his home;
but mine the tomb
wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King!
never was grief like thine.
This is my Friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.

It would be disingenuous to say, life being what it is and all, that “all my days I could gladly spend” like this, in this type of “sweet praise.” But I will spend this one, at least, singing silently of “my Friend” who on this day died for me.

Love Unknown

The Choir at King’s College Cambridge: My Song Is Love Unknown

 

 

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