Friday 18 April 2014

O Sacred Head, Once Wounded

For this year’s Good Friday...

O Sacred Head, Once Wounded,
With grief and pain weighed down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown!
How pale art Thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
Which once was bright as morn!

O Lord of life and glory,
What bliss till now was Thine!
I read the wondrous story,
I joy to call Thee mine.
Thy grief and Thy compassion
Were all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.

What language shall I borrow
To praise Thee, heavenly Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Lord, make me Thine for ever,
Nor let me faithless prove;
O let me never, never
Abuse such dying love!

Be near me, Lord, when dying;
O show Thyself to me;
And for my succour flying,
Come, Lord, to set me free:
These eyes, new faith receiving,
From Jesus shall not move;
For he who dies believing,
Dies safely through Thy love.

The original poem, written in Latin and much longer than the four stanzas reproduced here, is sometimes attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) and sometimes to Arnulf of Louvain (d. 1250), so it has ancient pedigree either way. It was translated into German by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), and has been translated into English by several writers over the years.

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