Lenten Hymnody Reflections

It has been said by many Lutherans that the strongest hymns are the Lenten section. I believe this is true, because the Lenten hymns have a laser-like focus on our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through the entire church year, we remember Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, but during Lent it becomes our focus and source of meditation. The texts which speak of the suffering of Christ remind us that He knows what it is like to suffer as a human. We do not have a God who is far off, or removed from our pain. Rather, Jesus stepped into our world as true man. There was no suffering which he did not experience. In this, we find comfort that the Lord is near to us in our afflictions. We know the good news, that because of His suffering, our sins have been forgiven.

We are blessed to have a rich Lenten section of our hymnal in our Lutheran Service Book. In this devotion, I want to point out five hymns which are significant in my opinion. I encourage you to follow the link for each hymn to listen to them, pondering the text and being comforted by the beautiful music. As we sing these hymns for the remainder of Lent at Holy Trinity, remember that Jesus’ suffering and passion was out of His great love for you. May this truth be a balm to your spirit, and may it comfort you in any trial you may be facing.

My Song is Love Unknown- LSB 430 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv7OZSoA22w

Both the lyricist and composer of the tune hail from England. Although this text has been set to multiple tunes, LOVE UNKNOWN, written by John Ireland, brings out the full beauty of the text through its sweeping, arcing lines. The most dynamic moments occur in stanza 5, “A murderer they save, the Prince of life they slay,” and stanza 7, “Never was love, dear King, never was grief like Thine.”

A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth- LSB 438 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FRRfak00g0

Written by the great German Lutheran hymn writer Paul Gerhardt, this hymn goes into depth on Jesus as the Lamb of God. It very closely quotes Isaiah 53 in describing the spotless, innocent, silent lamb that is lead to slaughter. Most particular in this hymn is stanza 3, where the Lamb Himself speaks to the reader, and to the Father in Heaven. “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll do what You command Me. My will conforms to your decree, I’ll do what You have asked Me.” Stanza 4 points us past the sorrow of the cross to our joyful arrival to heaven. Yet, the blood is still there in heaven- it has washed our robes and made them white, free from sin.

 

 

Come to Calvary’s Holy Mountain- LSB 435 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBF3VLd8rn0

James Montgomery, the author of the text, was raised in the Moravian church, and composed over 400 hymn texts, 100 of which are still used widely today. He is highly praised as a hymn writer for having poetic genius, knowledge of scripture, and tender simplicity of text. His other hymns in LSB include “Go to Dark Gethsemane”, “Hail to the Lord’s Annointed”, and “Angels from the Realms of Glory”.

This hymn is an invitation to the sinner to receive the blessings of Christ on the cross. Christ is described as pure and healing fountain, which can cure all ills of sin. The ills of sin are described as uncleanness, infection, leprosy, blindness, and woundedness. All find comfort and healing in the blood of Christ.

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded- LSB 450- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO2d0AD5wBg

One of the most well-known Lenten hymns is also the oldest text on this list. Bernard of Clairvaux was a French monk who was born in 1090. He was a brilliant man who advised those in power. He also defended the Doctrine of the Trinity. His text was later translated by Paul Gerhardt, the German Lutheran hymn writer. It was from Gerhardt’s translation that we take our English one. The tune was written by Hans Leo Hassler. This hymn is a very personal one for the reader, for it expresses the deep feelings we have when looking upon the cross. Most of the stanzas are prayers to Jesus, asking Him to guard us, receive us, be with us, and bring us at last to heaven.

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted- LSB 451- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV8zIFoiwoQ

Thomas Kelly was an Irish born preacher, and a successful hymn-writer. A few of his hymns are in our LSB, including “Look Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious” and “We Sing the Praise of Him who Died.” This hymn is particularly convicting to the sinner; after we have seen Christ on the cross, stricken and bloody, stanza 3 tells us, “Ye who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the evil great Here may view it’s nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.” The payment for our sin came at a great cost. The hymn ends with a message of comfort, “None shall ever be confounded, who on Him their hope have built.”

Written By: Alisha Schimm, DPM