One of the good things in days gone by, was that the Easter Holidays were a sure thing. Whether early or later in the year, the holidays started at least on Friday before Holy Week. That´s how it was. Sure thing, no questions. Just as the long summer break would start somewhere around the 1st Advent. Come what may. So, we children got to know at least some of the standard hymns for these seasons. Most of Lent was in school time, so the list of hymns to learn was longer, but in Advent, we´d have more time for social family singing and we´d learn more by repetition and just plain doing than memorizing during the afternoon homework session at Uelzen boarding school.
Although we sang two Advent hymns last Palm Sunday, I´ll leave those for another day. Today I´ll list the Lenten favorites of my blessed Pastor – Ernst-August Albers – which probably did more to lay the foundations of my faith in the vicarious justification of sinners through our Lord Jesus Christ than anything else.
Just take the gold standard “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth” by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) with all 10 verses including Jesus shedding his blood, being tortured and crucified i.e. not blatantly purging the sacramental realism of our Lord´s Passion as the German hymnal did after the great War. The lovely discourse between Father and Son, the profound Christological magnificence, the marvelous truths of our redemption and sanctification, eschatological setting… It´s just perfect!
1 A LAMB goes uncomplaining forth,
The guilt of all men bearing;
‘Tis laden with the sin of earth,
None else the burden sharing;
It goes its way, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
Its spotless life to offer;
Bears shame, and stripes, and wounds, and death,
Anguish and mockery, and saith,
“Willing all this I suffer.”
2 This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great Friend
And everlasting Savior;
Him, Him God chose, sin’s reign to end
And bring us to His favor.
“Go forth, my Son!” He said, “and bail
The children, who are doomed to hell
But for Thine intercession.
The punishment is great, and dread
The wrath, but Thou Thy blood shalt shed,
And save them from perdition.”
3 “Yea, Father, yea, most willingly
I’ll bear what Thou commandest;
My will conforms to Thy decree,
I do what Thou demandest.”
O wondrous Love! what hast Thou done!
The Father offers up His Son,
The Son content descendeth!
O Love! O Love! how strong art Thou!
In shroud and grave Thou lay’st Him low
Whose word the mountains rendeth!
4 Thou lay’st him, Love, upon the cross,
With nails and spear Him bruising;
Thou slay’st Him as a lamb, His loss,
From soul and body oozing;
From body ’tis the crimson flood
Of precious sacrificial blood,
From soul, the strength of anguish:
My gain it is; sweet Lamb to Thee
What can I give, whose love to me
For me doth make Thee languish?
5 Lord, all my life I’ll cleave to Thee,
Thy love fore’er beholding,
Thee ever, as Thou ever me,
With loving arms enfolding.
Yea, Thou shalt be my Beacon-light,
To guide me safe through death’s dark night,
And cheer my heart in sorrow;
Henceforth myself and all that’s mine
to Thee, my Savior, I consign,
From whom all things I borrow.
6 By morn and eve my theme shall be
Thy mercy’s wondrous measure;
To sacrifice myself to Thee,
My foremost aim and pleasure.
My stream of life shall flow for Thee,
Its steadfast current ceaselessly
In praise to Thee outpouring;
And all that Thou hast done for me,
I’ll treasure in my memory,
Thy gracious love adoring.
7 Enlarge, shrine of my heart, and swell,
To Thee shall now be given
A treasure that doth far excel
The worth of earth and heaven.
Away with the Arabian gold,
With treasures of an earthly mold!
I’ve found a better jewel.
My priceless treasure, Lord my God,
Is Thy most holy, precious blood,
Which flowed from wounds so cruel.
8 This treasure ever I’ll employ,
This ever aid shall yield me;
In sorrow it shall be my joy,
In conflict it shall shield me;
In joy, the music of my feast,
And when all else has lost its zest,
This manna still shall feed me;
In thirst my drink; in want my food;
My company in solitude,
To comfort and to lead me.
9 Death’s poison cannot harm me now,
Thy blood new life bestoweth;
My Shadow from the heat art Thou,
When noonday’s sunlight gloweth.
When I’m by inward grief opprest,
On Thee my weary soul shall rest,
As sick men on their pillows.
Thou art my Anchor, when by woe
My bark is driven to and fro
On trouble’s restless billows.
10 And when Thy glory I shall see
And taste Thy kingdom’s pleasure,
Thy blood my royal robe shall be,
And joy beyond at measure;
It then shall be my glorious crown,
Thus I’ll appear before the throne
Of God, and need not hide me;
And shall, by Him to Thee betrothed,
By Thee in bridal garments clothed,
Stand as a bride beside Thee.
Well, some of the other favorite hymns on the list to learn were:
- „Jesus, I will ponder now…“(„Jesu Deine Passion will ich jetzt bedenken…“ 6 stanzas by Siegmund von Birken 1663.)
- “Du großer Schmerzensmann, vom Vater so geschlagen…“ 6 stanzas by Adam Thebesius 1652.
- „Upon the Cross extended…“(“O Welt, sieh hier Dein Leben…” 15 stanzas by Paul Gerhardt)
- “O Sacred Head, now wounded…” („Salve, caput cruentatum” by Arnulf von Löwen 1250) translated into German as „O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden…“10 stanzas by Paul Gerhardt)