Tag Archives: Johan Sebastian Bach

‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’

The Ao Naga are a tribal group in northeastern India. They were converted to Christianity in the late 1870s. This is the Ao Naga Choir with the Passion hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

“O Sacred Head” is a very old Latin hymn traditionally attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. However (I’m disappointed to learn) it’s now generally attributed to a 13th Century poet named Arnulf of Leuven (whose name suggests Norman ancestry).

Arrangement by J. S. Bach.

I love this hymn. For Lutherans (and, of course, for many others) Christocentricity is the chief test of theology. If Jesus isn’t the Center, then it’s wrong.

Through all history, people have sought the secret of the universe. Christians declare that the secret is not an equation, not a formula, not a hidden talisman or precious stone or treasure, but a Person. When you get to the end of all questions, when you draw back the final curtain of the universe, you find Personality.

And of course, we always knew this was right. All our great stories declared that the King must save his people; the Father must save his child; the Prince must save the princess. The answer is Someone.

A blessed Good Friday and Easter to you.

“What language shall I borrow to thank Thee”

Lyrics from “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;

From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.

Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;

Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.

I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;

Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.