O Sacred Head Now Wounded

crown-of-thornsO 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 Savior! ’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 forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Words by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153
Music by Hans L.Hassler, 1601

 


And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.
John 19:2 – 3

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:4 – 6

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15


 

History is full of what we call dark hours. In American History the civil war is considered by many the darkest time in American history. During the war an estimated 620,000 people lost their lives. Perhaps the darkest time was July 1 – 3, 1863, The Battle of Gettysburg. Neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, in the bloodiest battle ever fought on United States soil. Over 46,000 Americans lost their lives.

Since then there have been other, the stock market crash of 1929 saw 23,000 people committing suicide in one year. The December 11, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor saw 2,500 people lose their lives. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon saw 2,996 people lose their lives.

Yes we have known dark days. Days when all seems lost. Days when we can see no hope. But as dark as these are, none compares to the darkest day in all history. The day Jesus Christ, God incarnate, died on the cross. And not a simple death, but one of humiliation and suffering. It is a reflection on these events that we find in Bernard of Clairvaux’s “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

The hymn begins,”O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.” As we look back at the events, so long ago, we can not help but be moved. Jesus had entered Jerusalem welcomed by the people as a long awaited King. They had praised him and followed with anxious anticipation of His ascension to the throne.

But things had not gone as the people had expected. Jesus had not challenged the Roman rule, but the leaders of Israel themselves. He had caused a turmoil in the temple as He challenged the practices that had become so accepted.

But all had changed. He was betrayed by one of his closest friends. He was arrest and tried for blasphemy, claiming to be equal with God. He had been beaten beyond recognition. The people who once had greeted him with such exhilaration now mocked him openly. The soldiers who took him away “twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give Him slaps in the face.” (John 19:2 – 3) And finally, he was taken away and crucified.

Yet we remember these events. Every year we set aside time to specifically look at these events. Why would we do this? Why would we want to remember? The answer is found as we continue through the hymn, “What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain; Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.” That is why we remember. He did it for us. Jesus, the very Son of God, willingly went through this for us. It was a punishment that we deserved, for we had turned our back on God. We had failed to live up to His Holiness, yet Jesus took the punishment that we might not. Isaiah had prophesied these events in chapter 53:4 – 6 where we read, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

He suffered for us, and we need only accept the gift he has given. For when we accept it, all the punishment we deserve is transferred to Him. When we understand this, our response is as the hymn says, “Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place; Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.”

The hymn then addresses a profound question that comes from the acceptance of what He has done. It continues, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?” How do you say thank you for something so wonderful, for something so impossible, for something that can not be put into words. A gift that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 9:15 as “indescribable.” The answer is not in words, but in every aspect of our lives. How do we thank Him? By living our lives for him.
Jesus suffering is something beyond our understanding. How God could take on flesh and allow Himself to be beaten and killed. That He would do that for us. Our response can not be less than that found in the words of the hymn, “O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.”

 

 

Read more about “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

Read the full text of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

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