Have mercy, Lord, have mercy – a metrical version of Psalm 51

This is the third (and final) hymn for this Lenten season. Today’s post is a version of Psalm 51, which I have tried to avoid Christianizing, at least too heavily. Maybe my Jewish friends will tell me if I’ve succeeded, or if my unconcious Christian bias in reading is simply too strong.

As always with hymn and prayer texts on this site, do feel free to make use of it under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

The tune I had in mind while writing was Passion Chorale.

Have mercy, Lord, have mercy,
in your abundant love,
and from my sin now cleanse me,
my trespasses remove.
My shame is overpowering,
it will not let me go:
great wrath above is towering,
your sentence to bestow.

From birth have I offended,
and long been mired in sin,
yet you my heart have tended,
and sought a way within.
O cleanse my inner being,
and wash away my shame,
that I no longer fleeing
may glorify your name.

Look not on my transgression,
but take away my sin,
acknowledge my confession,
and give me life within.
Create in me a clean heart,
your spirit now renew,
your saving joy be my part,
my life be one with you.

Contrition my oblation,
and tears my sacrifice,
no ritual immolation
for love demands no price;
O God of my salvation,
open my lips and raise
the song of new creation,
restored in grace for praise.

A song of penitence

Detail from St Augustine c. 1650 by Philippe de Champaigne. Via Wikimedia Commons.

For this Ash Wednesday, a metrical version of a famous prayer by St Augustine. Do feel free to make use of it under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). First, though, the text of the prayer, as provided on the New Advent Fathers of the Church site:

Too late did I love You, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love You! For behold, You were within, and I without, and there did I seek You; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, were not. You called, and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleamed and shine, and chase away my blindness. You exhaled odours, and I drew in my breath and do pant after You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.

Augustine, Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 27

Next is my metrical version: the two most obvious tunes are Gerontius and Billing; the latter is rather less commonly used, but quite similar in mood.

Late have I loved you, O my Lord,
before whom beauty pales,
whose glory shines in Christ the Word,
whose splendour never fails.

I searched for you in all you made,
in all my eye discerned.
I failed to look within, afraid
to know what passion burned.

You walked with me unseen, unloved,
I trod as one alone,
I seized your gifts, though my use proved
the Giver was unknown.

Yet still you called, to me you spoke
your powerful words of love,
and my long-practiced deafness broke
by thunder from above.

Your flashing lightning cleared my sight,
your storm winds conquered me,
and now I see love shining bright,
I breathe air pure and free.

Your love, your life, is now my meat,
I hunger still for more;
your breath of life is true and sweet,
your touch of peace is sure.

Late though I loved you, O my Lord,
beauty both new and old,
now my heart welcomes Christ the Word,
my priceless pearl, my gold.

Hymn for Lent

This is a retrieval of a text I’ve never quite been satisfied with. One day, I shall come back to it knowing what I’ve got to change. Nonetheless, I think it still usuable, given how few hymns for Lent there are. It is probably most appropriate for the first Sunday of Lent, with the gospel of the temptations in the desert.

I wrote this with the tune Picardy in my head. Since that draft, Kathryn Rose (@artsyhonker) wrote a tune for it, Harringey, which you can find here.

Here’s the current text. As with other hymns and prayers on this site, you can use it under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

From the Jordan to the desert,
from the crowd to barren place,
Spirit-driven, devil-tempted,
Lord, you sought the Father’s grace
show us now your pow’r, in weakness,
presence in the empty space.

Out of Egypt with God’s people,
freedom brings its testing stress:
what is right and what is truthful,
how the name of God confess?
Jesus, lead us on our journey,
guide us through the wilderness.

Lack of food for empty stomach,
offered only cold hard stone;
scripture used to tempt and strengthen;
easy route to grasp the throne:
Bread of life, and Word incarnate
help us worship God alone.

In the search for loving justice,
in the quest for truth and right,
Jesus walk beside, before us,
hold your Cross of love in sight;
keep us in your Father’s presence,
guide us to your risen light.

The Easter Cycle

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The Easter cycle is quite similar to the Christmas cycle I explored in the previous post. There is an extended period of preparation, Lent, which leads up to the events of Easter, and an extended period of celebration after Easter which finishes on the feast of Pentecost. The origins of Lent appear to be as a time of preparation for baptism in those places that celebrated baptisms at Easter. However, it has long since become primarily a time for attending to a more disciplined life of faith.

The recovery of a long Eastertide is relatively recent, but, unlike Epiphany, Easter is not fighting any strong cultural currents, and it has deeper roots. Moreover the tone of joy naturally suits the uplifting mood of time outside the church, at least in the northern hemisphere, as we move into spring and (sometimes) early summer, and leave the winter months behind. As an old Easter hymn says:

Continue reading “The Easter Cycle”