Sunday, March 23, 2008

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

One of my all-time favorite hymns is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I've sung it in church and in choirs numerous times. I've also played the orchestral accompaniment numerous times as well. I find the words overwhelming sometimes, just thinking about what it all means.

This week, my nephew played in the orchestra that accompanied three choirs singing for the Easter service at the College Church at my alma mater. I went with my sister to hear him. Imagine my delight to see that hymn on the program. I could hardly wait to hear it. I just love the words, especially the third verse.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His hands, His head, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Where the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all.

--IsaacWatts, 1707

The Selah Publishing company website offers this History of the Hymn:
"Isaac Watts first published "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707). Designated a communion hymn, it appeared under the heading "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ; Gal. 6:14." One of the first English-language hymns to use the word "I" and to focus directly on personal religious experience, "When I Survey" holds an important place in the history of hymnody. It offers an example of how Watts, sometimes called the father of English hymnody, enlarged the boundaries of English sacred song beyond the metrical psalms to include freer verse that readily lent itself to new musical settings. Watts fused two traditions of sacred song that had been developing side-by-side-metrical psalms and hymns-in texts characterized by unusual clarity and force in the choice of words."

Photo: from Snapshots of Joy graphics


Heidi said...

We sang "When I survey..." this weekend. I was nearly moved to tears--and I don't cry that easily! :-)

Beth said...

It's a beautiful hymn--words and music. How special to share the experience of playing it in orchestra with your nephew.

Ruth said...

This is a favourite of mine too. Hope you had a wonderful Easter.