Friday, April 1, 2011

Healthy Hymnody

I lead the choir here at the church.  It's a joy to get to lead people to learn more about the amazing instrument that is the human voice.  More than that, it's a privilege to choose music for them to sing.  I only wish I had more skill so we could sing some of the more beautiful sacred fare out there.  But there is something to be said for simplicity.

There are a few seasons of the church year that are have abundant stores of song to choose from.  The musical selection is immense.  Advent and Christmas are littered with options and styles that are quite well known and received.  Lent and Easter have a prolific store as well, and unfortunately don't always see the same amount of usage. It's easy to choose songs that are easy to sing, and neglect the words and rich musical forms that are out there.  Often the wealth of word and meaningful accompaniment is incredible in some of these Lenten/Easter songs but they aren't used.  

Say what you will about the tunes that accompanies these hymns.  The word "hymn" refers to the lyric.  It's a shame that some hymns are thrown away or neglected because they don't cause an emotional response/charge.  A hymn is so much more than just something we sing to feel good and to break up a service.  It teaches us.  It's part of our conversation with God as part of the Divine Service.  It has a depth to it, a tangible quality that lasts across centuries.  There's something fantastic about knowing that you are singing the same words as Christians across time.

Phos hilaron (Joyous Light of Glory) jumps to mind as a great example of that.  The church has carried it for 17 centuries.  It hasn't lost meaning; the crux of our salvation is older than that song!

The words of healthy hymnody stirs my soul.  I'd like to share some with you.  I hope it creates a time of reflection for you on all that we celebrate and remember at this time of the year.

My song is love unknown: my Saviour's love to me, love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be. Oh, who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?
Text: Samuel Crossman, c. 1624-83

If my sins give me alarm and my conscience grieve me, let your cross my fear disarm, peace and pardon give me.  Grant that I may trust in you and your holy Passion; if his Son forgives anew, God must have compassion.
Text Sigismund von Birkin, 1626-81; tr. August Crull 1846-1923, alt.

All this for my transgression, my wayward soul to win; this torment of your Passion, to set me free from sin.  I cast myself before you, your wrath my rightful lot; have mercy, I implore you! O Lord, condemn me not! Here will I stand beside you, your death for me my plea; let all the world deride you, I clasp you close to me.  My awe cannot be spoken, to see you crucified; but in your body broken, redeemed, I safely hide!
Text attr. Bernard of Clairvaux 1091-1153; Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76

Behold, behold the wood of the cross on which is hung our salvation. O come, let us adore.
Roman Catholic Good Friday hymn
-- This one I find astounding as we often speaking of coming and adoring at Christmas.

How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son and make a wretch His treasure.... Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer.  But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.
Stuart Townend.

Do you recognize any of these words? Post titles in the comments.


    Thank you so much for this, Rebecca. A wonderful selection - keep up the good work with your choir. I hope you are appreciated.

  2. I love the hymns of the Lenten season and the Easter hymns that follow(actually I love hymns). My heart bursts with the depth of soul that one feels when we sing these hymns, heartfeltly. Oh that we sang more in Church and out of Church. While possibly off tune more than on, an important part of my devotions is a hymn of the season, and this way I read and/or sing many hymns that we are unable to get around to singing in the short season of Lent. I feel that we have through hymns a soul felt joy and peace that stretches through eternity, God's Word in music.
    Thanks for your joy of hymns and sharing this joy with your choir.

  3. I like "My song is love unknown..." always a favourite...

    there are many that I enjoy as well, but my mind draws a blank at the moment for all but one simple song: "The Old Rugged Cross"