Later, I hope to have some thoughts on ecumenism and Easter, but those are not coming together very well in writing, so for the moment I'll just go on trying to exemplify what I think is a fruitful form of ecumenism related to music. More on that in a moment.
Meanwhile, here is a rather solemn thought concerning Good Friday. As Jesus was dying, He must have known that there would be some for whom He died who would still reject Him, who would not accept His sacrifice on their behalf. What a painful thought! And yet, Scripture says, "Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross...," and we know that Jesus is rejoicing with the Father now, despite the hard hearts of so many men towards Him. As the Easter hymn says, "All his woes are over now. And the passion that he bore, sin and pain can vex no more." We know, too, that our own joy in heaven will not be undermined by the knowledge that there are those who have rejected God's mercy.
Ultimately, the continued rejection of man cannot undermine Jesus' joy. Yet at the same time, as long as this world lasts, He stretches out His nail-pierced hands all day long, and by many for whom He died He is still scorned.
Truly it is all a great mystery beyond my comprehension. I'm just humbled beyond words that He died for me.
This year, I learned a new Passion hymn. It's astonishing that I've missed it all these years. It's truly lovely, but it seems to have fallen out of use even in the Anglican church. I never heard it in the high Anglican church I attended in Nashville nearly thirty years ago and have not heard of it at St. Patrick's here in the twenty-two years I've been here. I'll probably see if I can introduce it during Passiontide next year. I stumbled across it while singing hymns with my family on the evening of Good Friday. Here are the words.
His are the thousand sparkling rills
That from a thousand fountains burst,
And fill with music all the hills;
And yet he saith, "I thirst."
All fiery pangs on battlefields,
On fever beds where sick men toss,
Are in that human cry he yields
To anguish on the cross.
But more than pains that racked him then
Was the deep longing thirst divine
That thirsted for the souls of men;
Dear Lord! and one was mine.
O Love most patient, give me grace;
Make all my soul athirst for thee;
That parched dry lip, that fading face,
That thirst, were all for me.
This text is by Cecil Frances Alexander. She was a 19th-century poet and hymn-writer who wrote such famous hymn texts as "Once in Royal David's City" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." The tune, Isleworth, was written by an organist and composer named Samuel Howard (1700s) about whom I can so far find out relatively little. The tune is beautiful and really "makes" the hymn.
I'd first run into this sort of meditation on Jesus' thirst in a completely different musical context--Southern gospel music. The Cathedrals' song "I Thirst" says the very same thing: "He said, 'I thirst,' yet he made the rivers. He said, 'I thirst,' yet he made the sea. 'I thirst,' said the King of creation. In his great thirst, He brought water to me."
We are so blessed to have musical riches from so many different traditions.