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.

When repentance is more God’s work than ours: Luke’s strange stress on divine mercy

This post is in the series Rite Reading. The second of three posts on Luke.

The comedian Emo Philips used to have a great one-liner:

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.

St Luke has more about repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ ministry than the other gospels, and in a way his take on it is as strange as Emo’s. Luke’s Jesus is very much the friend of sinners.

Detail from an icon of St Luke in Great Lavra monastery on Mt Athos; via Wikipedia

It should be said straight away that Judaism was very much in favour of repentance, and was always happy to see sinners engage in it. It’s just that some of those who clashed with Jesus didn’t recognise people’s responses to Jesus as repentance. Repentance was laid out clearly in the law. It involved making sacrifices and reparation, and amendment of life. Partying with Jesus didn’t look much like that kind of serious acknowledgement of sin.

Continue reading “When repentance is more God’s work than ours: Luke’s strange stress on divine mercy”

Language! taking care of our words in public

Normally I would save political posts for my other blog (where I shall cross-post this). This one, after all, is devoted to things liturgical. However, sometimes there are resonances between public liturgy and public life.

One of the things good liturgy does is teach us something about the use of language. Most specifically, it gives us words to use to speak to God. These have usually been crafted with care, drawing on the depth of the tradition, however updated to be able to make sense in the present. People take care shaping the words of the liturgy, because what we say matters. In so far as we can speak truth about the God who is beyond our full understanding, we want to speak truthfully to, about, and for God.

Continue reading “Language! taking care of our words in public”