Johann Sebastian Bach
Something for the weekend. O Sacred Head Surrounded. The lyrics of this hymn derive from the latin poem Salve Mundi Salutare. The authorship is open to doubt although I agree with those who attribute at least part of the poem to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, based upon stylistic similarities with portions of his other writings. The sanctity and eloquence of Saint Bernard alloyed with the musical genius of Johann Sebastian Bach makes a potent combination indeed.
On a personal note this hymn has always moved me as no other does. I had it played at my son’s funeral and when I depart this Vale of Tears I have requested that it be played at mine. It reminds me that God died for me, something I find absolutely stunning. Love and sacrifice begin and end with God, who regards each man as if there were no other. Continue reading
I. The Ascension completes our faith in Him, who was God as well as man
The mystery of our salvation, dearly-beloved, which the Creator of the universe valued at the price of His blood, has now been carried out under conditions of humiliation from the day of His bodily birth to the end of His Passion. And although even in “the form of a slave” many signs of Divinity have beamed out, yet the events of all that period served particularly to show the reality of His assumed Manhood. But after the Passion, when the chains of death were broken, which had exposed its own strength by attacking Him, Who was ignorant of sin, weakness was turned into power, mortality into eternity, contumely into glory, which the Lord Jesus Christ showed by many clear proofs in the sight of many, until He carried even into heaven the triumphant victory which He had won over the dead. As therefore at the Eastern commemoration, the Lord’s Resurrection was the cause of our rejoicing; so the subject of our present gladness is His Ascension, as we commemorate and duly venerate that day on which the Nature of our humility in Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father. On which Providential order of events we are founded and built up, that God’s Grace might become more wondrous, when, notwithstanding the removal from men’s sight of what was rightly felt to command their awe, faith did not fail, hope did not waver, love did not grow cold. For it is the strength of great minds and the light of firmly-faithful souls, unhesitatingly to believe what is not seen with the bodily sight, and there to fix one’s affections whither you cannot direct your gaze. And whence should this Godliness spring up in our hearts, or how should a man be justified by faith, if our salvation rested on those things only which lie beneath our eyes? Hence our Lord said to him who seemed to doubt of Christ’s Resurrection, until he had tested by sight and touch the traces of His Passion in His very Flesh, “because you have seen Me, you have believed: blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed John 20:29 .” Continue reading