O Sacred Head Now Wounded

It’s the ‘dark day’ for me. The dark day is the day when the Apostles and disciples of Jesus were in hiding, fearful that they were to be hunted and crucified by the authorities who has just killed Jesus, in utter shock that the last 48 hours happened. Their bubble had burst. Jesus was dead and he wasn’t going to be establishing the kingdom he had promised. They were without hope, they were in the dark place of despair. Have you ever spent time thinking about how dark the day was between the cross and the empty tomb?

On this dark day, I like to sing and meditate on one of my favorite hymns, O Sacred Head now Wounded. This somber hymn is taken from a lengthy poem that addressed the various parts of Chris’s body as He suffered on the cross. The poem is titled Salve Mundi Salutare and it is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux. There were seven sections of the poem focusing on His feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. It was a favorite Lenten poem and became more popular as the Passion Week meditations gained traction.

This remarkable text has been generally attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, the very admirable abbot of a monastery in France. Forsaking the wealth and ease of a noble family for a life of simplicity, holiness, prayer, and ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of others, Bernard was one of the most influential church leaders of his day. Martin Luther wrote of him, “He was the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together.

 Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996. Print.

The poem was translated into German by Paul Gerhardt in the 17th century. It was finally translated into English by James Alexander in the 19th century. As you sing and meditate on this hymn, you join with a millennia of believers whose hearts were broken over Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made live in the spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

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