Tuesday Hymns: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”

Bernard of Clairvaux was a monk of the Cistercian order during the early 12th century who was often quoted by the Reformers as example of one who understood at some level the doctrine of sola fide. Our Tuesday Hymn for this week is an example of this churchman’s description of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for His people (Note: I am not saying he had a full-orbed understanding of this great Biblical doctrine): “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Notice, how clearly he states in the second verse that “mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.”

Whenever we sing a song such as this (from the 12th century) as part of our corporate worship, I am reminded that we are a part of the people of God of all the ages, and these words have been sung to praise our God, not for years, not for decades, but for centuries.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call thee mine.

What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!
‘Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank thee, dearest Friend,
For this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to thee.

Be near when I am dying,
O show thy cross to me;
And for my succor 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.

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