St. Giles’ Cathedral
Holy Week 2020 Daily Devotion
Hymns for Holy Week
10th April 2020
What wondrous love is this
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul;
what wondrous love is this, O my soul;
what wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and through eternity I’ll sing on.
Appalachian Hymn 1867
This Good Friday we find ourselves asking lots of questions as we continue to follow the advice we are getting to keep distance from others in order to limit infections. How long will we be dealing with these extraordinary measures? When will the number of infections reduce? Will I and my family be safe from the virus? Will the economy recover? You can add your own ones.
I want to reflect on another question for Good Friday which comes to us in the plaintive hymn ‘What wondrous love is this?’
It is unusual – but not unknown – for writers to deploy the use of the rhetorical device of a question to form their hymn. One can think of Charles Wesley asking “And can it be, that I should gain/ an interest in the Saviour’s blood? Or the great African-American Good Friday spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Indeed the very name of the day we mark kind of induces a question, “What’s ‘good’ about Good Friday?”
“What wondrous love is this?” is a hymn which was first published in 1811 and is described as an anonymous ‘Appalachian hymn.’ It is from the southern US states of the mountain range that the hymn comes from. The tune is believed to be based on an old English folk song.
The themes are central to the Good Friday story; the unending love Jesus Christ has for all of humanity (the answer to the question!); how that love is shown in the passion of Christ (“to bear the dreadful curse,” “Christ laid aside his crown;) the response which that love evokes from humanity (“I will sing, I will sing;) and the promise of Good Friday and Easter (“when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.”)
It is that saving love for the world which indeed tells us what is ‘good’ about Good Friday.
What wondrous love is this
King of Glory,
we adore you, Saviour and Lord.
You suffered on the cross and gave your life for the world.
We give thanks for the outpouring of your love
and offer our worship today with deepest gratitude.
We pray for the world in this serious health crisis, Lord.
Strengthen the hand of those who seek cure and vaccine.
Make known your presence to the vulnerable and lonely.
Challenge us, in these days to truly be people of love.
In Jesus name we pray.
Music for Reflection
J.S.Bach O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß BWV 622
While the Cathedral is closed, we are losing a very substantial part of our regular income, and it may take a very long time for things to recover after we are able to re-open. All donations, large or small, are therefore very welcome, to help us to survive, and to continue to fulfil our role in the spiritual and cultural life of the city and the country.