Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekly Hymn~~Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

I teach music to seventh and eighth graders. Don’t pity me! I enjoy this age! One of my goals for my students is to introduce them to some of the great hymns of the faith. I’m saddened that I must introduce them because it indicates that the huge majority of of my students know no hymns at all. They mostly sing contemporary praise songs, and I’m distressed and concerned that the great hymns of the faith that have sustained God’s Church for so long are being neglected and forgotten. So for half an hour a week, the nine young ladies and gentlemen in my class are learning to appreciate their nearly forgotten heritage of great Christian hymns. As a Christian, teacher, and musician, this excites me.

Recently it occurred to me that I could share here our weekly hymn. That is, for as long as they last. The weekly hymn will take a hiatus during the summer and will likely wrap about about a year from now, but it’ll be good while it lasts! And what better day to do this than the Lord’s Day? So here’s the first installment:

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

This hymn is based on Isaiah 53, the fourth verse especially: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Thomas Kelly, born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1769, is the author of the text. He originally planned to be a lawyer but gave up his law studies after converting to Christ and became an Anglican minister instead. All told, he wrote 765hymn texts before his death in 1855. This one first appeared in Kelly’s Hymns on Various Passages of Scriptures in 1804.

The hymn tune is O Mein Jesu, Ich Muss Sterben, which translated means, “O my Jesus, I must die.” Cheerful, isn’t it? But considering that the text is about Jesus’ great suffering on our behalf, it is appropriate. This tune is found in the Geistliche Volkslieder (“Spiritual Folk Songs”) of 1850 and has the meter 8 7 8 7 D. Have you ever wondered what those letters and numbers at the bottom of each hymn mean? The numbers tell you how many syllables each line contains. So in this case, there are four lines of first eight syllables, then seven, then eight again, and then seven again. The D stands for “double.” So you do the 8 7 8 7 pattern again. Simple, isn’t it?

Have a listen:

There is much to meditate upon in this hymn, especially during this season of Lent.

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