Wednesday is for Worship
As an undergrad, I was an ancient history major, focused on Greece and Rome with a minor in ancient Greek language. I love history and I love exploring the past for gems that speak across the centuries about the wonder of Christ. Venantius Fortunatus was a bishop in Poitiers France around A.D. 600 and one of the favorite poets and hymn writers of his time.
Poetry, real, thoughtful, word-smithed artistry is a rare commodity in our time. Some slam poetry has real force and power and even beauty but the kind of sustained discipline that is found in some ancient poetry and hymns is mostly a lost art today. When I found this today as part of my sermon prep, I knew I had to dust off the intervening 1,400 years and pass it on. This deep meditation on the meaning of the cross and the greatness of the Savior is worth a slow, undistracted read. Enjoy.
Originally, written in Latin, the version below was translated by Edward Caswell except for verses 8-12 which are from another’s hand. I first read the hymn in Philip Schaff’s compilation, Christ in Song: Hymns of Immanuel Selected from all Ages (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 1870, 2003), 125-127.
Sing, My Tongue, The Saviour’s Battle
1 Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s battle,
Tell His triumph far and wide;
Tell aloud the wondrous story
Of His Body crucified;
How upon the cross a victim,
Vanquishing in death, He died.
2 Eating of the tree forbidden,
Man had sunk in Satan’s snare,
When our pitying Creator
Did this second tree prepare,
Destined many ages later,
That first evil to repair.
3 Such the order God appointed,
When for sin He would atone,
To the serpent thus opposing
Schemes yet deeper than his own;
Thence the remedy procuring,
Whence the fatal wound had come.
4 So, when now at length the fullness
Of the time foretold drew nigh,
Then the Son, the world’s Creator,
Left His Father’s throne on high,
From the virgin’s womb appearing
Clothed in our mortality.
5 All within a lowly manger,
Lo, a tender babe He lies!
See His gentle virgin-mother
Lull to sleep His infant cries!
While the limbs of God Incarnate
Round with swathhing bands she ties.
6 Thus did Christ to perfect manhood
In our mortal flesh attain;
Then of His free choice He goeth
To a death of bitter pain;
He, the Lamb upon the altar
Of the cross, for us was slain.
7 Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches,
See the thorns upon His brow;
Nails His hands and feet are rending;
See, His side is open now;
Whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
Streams of blood and water flow.
8 Faithful Cross! above all other,
One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peers may be;
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron,
Sweetest weight is hung on thee!
9 Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For a while the ancient rigour,
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend.
10 Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ranson to uphold;
For a shipwrecked race preparing
Harbour, like the ark of old:
With the sacred blood anointed,
From the smitten Lamb that rolled.
11 When, O Judge of this world! coming
In Thy glory all divine,
Thou shalt bid Thy cross’s trophy
Bright above the stars to shine;
Be the light and the salvation
Of the people that are Thine!
12 Blessing, honour everlasting,
To the immortal Deity;
To the Father, Son, and Spirit,
Equal praise ever be;
Glory through the earth and heaven
To the blessed Trinity!