A Journey of Devotion – O Sacred Head

I’m posting the YouTube video way up here at the top of the post, so that perhaps you can hit play, and then scroll down and listen to the music w/o necessarily watching the video.

{ok, hit play now, then scroll down and let the song keep playing as you read.}


[ok. scroll down.]









For some reason, I can’t post audio to this account, but I can embed YouTube videos. This particular one uses images from the film The Passion of the Christ, a film which I did not see (quite intentionally) and I don’t want to presume that any of you, either, want to see a filmmaker’s interpretation of Christ’s crucifixion every time Holy Week rolls around. [I have no problem with the fact that this film was made. I’m just a very visual creature, and I know that the images would stay with me forever in a way that might not be helpful].

However, this particular video has Fernando Ortega‘s recording of our hymn for today, and it was worth it to me to risk posting these images in order for you to hear his song.


Phwew. That was a really long disclaimer.


The Lenten way continues its forward journey toward Palm Sunday… then Passion week – step by step, the Lord’s love on display – and the failure and betrayal of the crowds around every corner of the final week of the earthly life of Jesus. The crowd, by the way, well, that’s you. And that’s me. Just FYI.


Today’s hymn of devotion is a very familiar one to readers of every denominational stripe – I sang it as a Chreaster ELCA Lutheran [different translation, very similar in tone], a mega-church Evangelical, and now as a liturgy-loving Episcopalian. That it could cross such wide denominational lines and be published in so many ‘kinds’ of hymnals is testimony to the import of the text, I think, and its marriage to such a timeless, singable melody.

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded is based on a long medieval poem attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘Salve mundi salutare’. This poem talks about Christ’s body, as he suffered and hung on the cross. It has seven sections, each addressing a part of Jesus’ body-his feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and head. Our hymn is a translation of the seventh section ‘Salve caput crucentatum’, focused on Jesus’ head.


O 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.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

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.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.


Things I wish….


….that hymns weren’t being phased out of the church. Our culture emotes very well – to songs about us. Don’t believe me? Count how many times you sing ‘I’ in church next Sunday. Silly, I know. But cumulatively, it matters. I love those songs too, but a steady diet of them… well, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. But to stop singing this, and songs like it, seems more than a shame to me. It seems a disaster.

….that at least once a year we’d sing all of these verses – anywhere. somewhere. please.

….that, when my last hour of this earthly life draws nigh, I would have the capacity to think of this text …


Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

My, oh my. 


….that I would take the time to contemplate. I make excuses instead of contemplations. I believe a hymn text like this can only be borne of a contemplative life. There’s a reason this text is by Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a mystic. Mystics might have been a little theologically out to lunch in SOME ways, but at the end of the day, I think they’re on to something. Like Bernard, here. He made space for greatness.


The first time I heard Fernando’s recording of this song was, actually, the first time I ever heard Fernando. It was the summer of 1996, and I was working at a little Bible church as a worship director. I had just graduated from college, and was also raising support for my part-time InterVarsity staff work. I was on I-94 near Racine heading South [which, as all Wisconsinites know, is actually labeled East] listening to Moody Radio. This lovely version of ‘O Sacred Head‘ that you’ve been enjoying began and I was smitten quite quickly. By the second verse, my jaw was dropped. But the magic moment for me was the key change from C to Eb using the most surprising, but not jarring, transition on the opening measure of the final verse – what sounded like a simple altered melody note was actually the leading tone to a new key – and that was the moment in which I had to pull over, because the reaction I was having in the car was not safe for highway speeds. I remember staring at the radio of my 1985 Escort Hatchback and saying aloud ‘He plays the way I think!’ I have never forgotten that moment, for it is one of only two times when a song on the radio made me pull over in response to its beauty and, I believe, as a moment of the quickening of the Holy Spirit in my life. For reals. (The other, by the way, was Sara Groves – the first time I heard Generations. Highway 41, heading south near the windmills…… )


Words: Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153 (Salve caput cruen tatum); translated from La­tin to German by Paul Gerhardt, 1656 (O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden), and from Latin to Eng­lish James W. Alexander, 1830.

Music: Passion ChoraleHans L. HasslerLust garten neuer teutsch er Gesäng, 1601; harmony byJohann S. Bach, 1729 (MIDIscore).


An Incomplete Lenten Playlist

Hey – here are the songs from my ipod that I put in the ‘Lent’ playlist. There are major songs missing. But this is what I had in front of me at the moment. I will be adding more.. and will keep you posted!

Title Duration Artist Album Title
Down To The River To Pray 2:56 Alison Krauss O Brother, Where Art Thou?
One Pure and Holy Passion 4:32 Amy Nobles To The Ends of the Earth
Seize The Day 5:43 Carolyn Arends I Can Hear You
Only Time Will Tell 4:13 Carolyn Arends Under the Gaze
The head that once was crowned with thorns 2:27 The Choir Of Trinity College, Cambridge Hymns & Descants
Five Mystical Songs: 4. the Call 2:21 Choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral How Can I Keep from Singing?
Simple Gifts (‘Tis a Gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free) 2:18 Dale Warland Singers Harvest Home
Lord You Have My Heart 2:58 Delirious? Cutting Edge (Disc 1)
King Of Love 2:50 Delirious? Cutting Edge (Disc 1)
Handel: Messiah, HWV 56 – Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind Be Opened
Handel: Messiah, HWV 56 – He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd
Handel: Messiah, HWV 56 – He Was Despised 4:57
When All Thy Mercies 2:54 Fernando Ortega
Jesus, King Of Angels 12:49 Fernando Ortega
More Love to Thee 3:08 Fernando Ortega Fernando Ortega
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded 4:29 Fernando Ortega Hymns & Meditations
Near The Cross 3:46 Fernando Ortega Hymns & Meditations
Nothing But The Blood 4:01 Fernando Ortega Hymns & Meditations
Con Que Pargaremos? 3:45 Fernando Ortega Hymns & Meditations
I Need Thee Every Hour 8:06 Fernando Ortega Hymns & Meditations
This Time Next Year 4:17 Fernando Ortega Storm
Sing To Jesus 5:11 Fernando Ortega Storm
I Will Wait for My Change 5:48 Fernando Ortega This Bright Hour
Grace and Peace w/Steph 3:30 Fernando Ortega Toronto Live
Lord Most High 4:17 Gary Sadler & Don Harris 16 Biggest Praise & Worship Songs, Vol. 2
Field of Your Soul 3:58 Greg & Rebecca Sparks Field of Your Soul
I See The Lord 3:14 Honeytree Pioneer
Communion Song 4:30 John Michael Talbot The Lord’s Supper
Glory And Praise To Our God 2:47 John Michael Talbot
The Lord bless you and keep you 2:40 John Rutter Requiem
I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes 7:21 John Rutter Requiem
Ubi Caritas 2:16 John Rutter & the Cambridge Singers Brother Sun, Sister Moon
Here With Us 4:53 Joy Williams Come, Let Us Adore Him
Turn, Turn, Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) 3:40 Judy Collins Forever
From The Highest of Heights 5:59 Kate Simmonds The Power of the Cross
Wonderful, Merciful Savior 3:49 Kim Hill For Such A Time As This
The Power of the Cross 5:31 Lou Fellingham The Power of the Cross
I Remember You 2:02 Mac Powell & Gene Eugene City On A Hill
Blessed Be Your Name 5:49 Matt Redman The Songs of Matt Redman, Vol. 1
Be Thou My Vision 3:28 Michael Card Starkindler
I Will Arise And Go To Jesus/Musical Priest 3:23 Michael Card Starkindler
Let All Things Now Living 3:11 Michael Card Starkindler
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is 2:58 Michael Card Starkindler
I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say/Blarney Pilgrim 4:49 Michael Card Starkindler 

Small Enough (w/Fernando Ortega) 4:15 Nichole Nordeman This Mystery
Grace Flows Down 4:24 Passion One Day Live
Sweet Mercies 5:27 Passion Worship Band Live Worship 

Watch the Lamb 7:20 r/Ray Boltz
The Love of God 2:49 Rich Mullins Never Picture Perfect
Jacob and 2 Women 3:04 Rich Mullins The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol.
Calling Out Your Name 4:54 Rich Mullins The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1
I See You 5:28 Rich Mullins The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1
Step By Step 2:22 Rich Mullins The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1
Sometimes By Step 2:57 Rich Mullins The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 2
You Are Still Holy 4:38 Rita Springer Change My Heart, O God
Jesus, All For Jesus 11:17 Robin Mark Revival In Belfast
Be Unto Your Name 5:13 Robin Mark Revival In Belfast
This Journey Is My Own 5:50 Sara Groves Conversations
Compelled 5:18 Sara Groves Live from Messiah College
The Word 4:22 Sara Groves Live from Messiah College –
Help Me Be New 4:40 Sara Groves Past The Wishing
Awakening 4:07 Sara Groves Past The Wishing
Testimony 4:40 Sara Groves Past The Wishing
When the Saints 4:13 Sara Groves Tell Me What You Know
It Might Be Hope 3:49 Sara Groves Tell Me What You Know
Beautiful Savior 4:14 St. Olaf Choir Great Hymns of Faith
Abide With Me 4:06 St. Olaf Choir Great Hymns of Faith
Here I Am, Lord 5:27 St. Olaf Choir Great Hymns of Faith
My Song Is Love Unknown 3:28 King’s College, Cambridge, Best Loved Hymns
The Lord’s My Shepherd 2:45 King’s College, Cambridge Best Loved Hymns
By My Side 3:29 Stephen Schwartz Godspell – 2001 National Tour
Love That Will Not Let Me Go 5:11 Steve Camp Doing My Best
Cinderella (Acoustic Version) 4:28 Steven Curtis Chapman This Moment
O Church Arise 4:41 Stuart Townend The Power of the Cross
In Christ Alone 4:48 Stuart Townend See What a Morning
King of Glory 6:21 Third Day Offerings-A Worship Album
Mozart- Ave, Verum Corpus 2:54 Trinity College Choir
Where He Leads Me 5:34 Twila Paris My Utmost for His Highest
I Will Listen 3:42 Twila Paris Where I Stand
Stand — Susan Ashton 4:36 Various Artists
At The Cross 3:07 Vineyard Music with Brian Doerksen Isn’t He
The Voice Of God 5:31 4HIM Christian Classics – Inspirational
Come Down, O Love Divine 3:41 Vaughan Williams Hymnal
Organ prelude on Hyfrydol 3:09 Vaughan Williams Hymnal
Wherefore, O Father 2:11 Vaughan Williams Hymnal


Notes: Yes, there’s a Christmas song on this list. It shuffled into my headphones last week and I have to tell you that it took my breath away hearing it during Lent. Oh my. 

Notable absences: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted – Fernando Ortega, Night of Your Return
I Come By the Blood, The Look, Before the Throne – Sovereign Grace Ministries worship resources – their stuff is the best stuff around on the Cross. One album called ‘Songs for the Cross Centered Life’ and another called ‘Upward: The Hymns Project’ are worth the price of admission. Find them here.

A Journey of Devotion-To know this Love that surpasses knowledge…


I thought about saving this hymn for Holy Week, but I decided that since it’s been such an influential text – and tune – in my life, that you might want to have it for the remainder of this Lenten season.


My Song is Love Unknown, text by Samuel Crossman, is in and of itself a speaking of the Gospel story, a devotional masterpiece, and a humbling, challenging, moving portrait of the ‘love that surpasses knowledge’ of which Paul speaks in Ephesians. It has been set to several tunes, but my favorite and the one that seems the most evocative of the deepest parts of the text is Love Unknown, by John N. Ireland, written in 1918. A story is told about Geoffrey Shaw and John Ireland. When Shaw was editing the English Hymnal, shortly after WWI, he took John Ireland to lunch. Halfway through it he handed a slip of paper to him across the table and said, “I need a tune for this lovely poem.” It was Samuel Crossman’s poem, written in 1664. Ireland read it and re-read it, then wrote some music for a few minutes on the back of the menu and handed it back to him, “Here’s your tune.” It was the music to the hymn: “My Song Is Love Unknown”.

Must be nice.

Text is below, with thoughts between each verse.

My song is love unknown,

My Savior’s love to me;

Love to the loveless shown, 
That they might lovely be.

O who am I, that for my sake
 My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?
—–My song – my theme – all my glory – is this love that surpasses knowledge that we are still compelled to know more fully. Thus, there is no end to the depths we may plumb of the marvelous love of God, particularly as displayed in His Son. I stand amazed!

He came from His blest throne

Salvation to bestow;

But men made strange,  and none
the longed for Christ would know:

But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
 Who at my need His life did spend.
—a definition of ‘strange’ – [ predic. ] ( strange to/at/in)  unaccustomed to or unfamiliar with : “I am strange to the work”. So, in this case, unfamiliarity led to contempt. Yet he spent – gave away – His life for you, for me.

Sometimes they strew His way,

And His sweet praises sing;

Resounding all the day
 Hosannas to their King:

Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
 And for His death they thirst and cry.


They strew his way with, of course, palm branches, at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 
Such manic people wi
th their praises and curses! From the same tongue, in nearly the same breath. I stand
convicted. So familiar.

Why, what hath my Lord done?

What makes this rage and spite? 
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,

Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
 Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.


Sweet is the injury that leads me to an encounter with the Living God. The blind – sighted. The deaf – hearing.
The lame – running. Physical, spiritual, emotional – healing. And yet, we condemn. This is the mystery of Holy Week. We are among the crowd. 

They rise and needs will have

My dear Lord made away;

A murderer they saved,
 The Prince of life they slay,

Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
 That He His foes from thence might free.


The Lord ‘made away’ – fulfilled – their needs… yet He is slain. Yet, to suffering He goes with
cheer – one of the synonyms for ‘cheerful’ is ‘agreeable’. Resolved. Resigned. Resplendent
In life, no house, no home

My Lord on earth might have;

In death no friendly tomb
 But what a stranger gave.

What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
 But mine the tomb wherein He lay.


Our Lord Jesus was the ultimate sojourner. A wanderer from embryonic state – a visitor, literally. 
And to the end, He remained a sojourner – with only a borrowed tomb. I suppose, since He wouldn’t
need it for long…. But yet, I think there’s a very appropriate summation of the story in this simple statement –
What may I say?

Here might I stay and sing,

No story so divine;

Never was love, dear King!
 Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
 I all my days could gladly spend.

Oh, Lord, keep me near to the cross, where I am reminded – daily – to sing the song of Your suffering,
Your sacrifice, and Your glory. May this Lenten journey bear lasting fruit in my Alle—ia life – that
the glory songs of life would be more significant because of the experience of the cross songs of
difficult days. Keep me ever-faithful, dear Lord…


Born: 1623, Bradfield Monachorum, Suffolk, England.
Died: February 4, 1683, Bristol, England.
Buried: South aisle, cathedral church, Bristol, England.
Crossman earned a Bachelor of Divinity at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and was Prebendary of Bristol. After graduation, he ministered to both an Anglican congregation at All Saints, Sudbury, and to a Puritan congregation as well. Crossman sympathized with the Puritan cause, and attended the 1661 Savoy Conference, which attempted to update the Book of Common Prayer so both Puritans and Anglicans could use it. The conference failed, and the 1662 Act of Uniformity expelled some 2,000 ministers from the Church, including Crossman. He recanted shortly thereafter, and was ordained in 1665, becoming a royal chaplain. He received a post at Bristol in 1667, and became Dean of Bristol Cathedral in 1683.


There are several tune options for this text. My favorite is here

A lovely more-folky tune is here, and you can finda great recording of it on ‘Night of Your Return’ by Fernando Ortega. He uses a more contemporary setting of the text, as well.