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Musical Musings: Lent

The Blood of Christ

by Gary D. Penkala

Passion of the Christ The epic film, The Passion of the Christ, is an artful and reverent depiction of the twelve hours of Our Lord's life leading up to his crucifixion. As a work of cinematographic art the film uses rich symbols and graphic scenes to explore the theology and emotions of Christ's suffering, and more importantly, our spiritual and emotional reaction to it. In the same way, other artists have asked us to reflect on their art: Michelangelo's Pietà, Caravaggio's Deposition, Bach's Saint Matthew Passion. So, I believe, will this film take its place in history as a 21st century recognition of the value of salvific suffering – from an artful perspective.

The film was accused of being too violent, too brutal, in its depiction of the vicious events of crucifixion. But the horror evoked by the Savior's blood, in the scourging and on the cross, is juxtaposed with reverence for the sacred character of that Blood, shed for our sake. The sanctity of the Blood of Christ is nowhere more profoundly expressed than in the tenderness with which the Virgin Mother mops the Precious Blood from the pillar and courtyard floor with cloths given her by Claudia (Pilate's wife). How Catholic a moment!

Mel Gibson is not alone in his holding this theme before us for meditation. Countless hymn writers, and composers crafting music for those hymn texts, have reflected on the Blood of Christ. Read here their poetic preaching:

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
text: Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
tune: My Savior | Joshua Leavitt (1833)
  1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed And did my Sovereign die?
    Would He devote that sacred head For sinners such as I?
    O the Lamb, the loving Lamb, The Lamb on Calvary;
    The Lamb that was slain, that liveth again, To intercede for me.
At the Cross Her Station Keeping
text: Jacopone da Todi OFM (d.1306), trans. by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)
tune: Stabat Mater | adptd. by Samuel Webbe (1740-1816)
  1. Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled
    She beheld her tender Child
    All with bloody scourges rent.
  1. Wounded with his every wound
    Steep my soul till it hath swooned
    In his very Blood away.
Ave verum corpus
text: attr. to Innocent VI (d.1362)
tune: Plainchant, mode VI
Cujus latus perforatus fluxit aqua et sanguine.
>From his pierced side flowed water and blood.
Behold the Royal Cross on High
text: Vexilla regis | trans. by Frank C. Quinn (b.1932)
tune: Illsley | M. Bishop (1665-1773)
  1. But when his sacred side was pierced, A symbol of his love was seen:
    Christ's blood with water issued forth To purge our souls and wash us clean.
  2. O holy and resplendent Tree Once watered by that precious flood
    Which blessed your trunk and colored it The purple hue of royal blood.
Come, Take the Body of the Savior
text: Latin (7th century) | trans. by John M. Neale (1818-1866)
tune: Schönster Herr Jesu | anonymous (1677)
  1. Come, take the Body of the Savior Lord, And drink the holy Blood for you out-poured.
    Saved by that Body and hallowed by that Blood, Our souls, refreshed, we render thanks to God.
  2. Salvation's giver, Christ the only Son, By his dear Cross and Blood the vict'ry won.
    For us he offered, for greatest and for least, Himself the victim, and himself the priest.
Cross of Jesus
text: William Sparrow-Simpson (1860-1952)
tune: Cross of Jesus | John Stainer (1840-1901)
  1. Cross of Jesus, Cross of sorrow, Where the Blood of Christ was shed,
    Perfect Man on thee was tortured, Perfect God on thee has bled!
Forgive Them, O My Father
text: Mrs. C.F. Alexander (1823-1895)
tune: Saint Mary Magdalene | H.A. Jeboult (1871-1925)
  1. No pained reproaches gave he To them that shed his Blood,
    But prayer and tenderest pity Large as the love of God.
Glory Be to Jesus
text: Viva! Viva! Gesù | trans. by Edward Caswall (1814-1878)
tune: Boundary | Martin Shaw (1875-1958)
  1. Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains
    Poured for me the life-blood From his sacred veins
  2. Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find;
    Blest be his compassion, infinitely kind.
  1. Abel's blood for vengeance Pleaded to the skies;
    But the Blood of Jesus For our pardon cries.
  1. Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood;
    Louder still and louder Praise the Precious Blood.
God of Mercy and Compassion
text: Edmund Vaughan CSsR (1827-1908)
tune: Au sang qu'un Dieu | G.B. Pergolesi (1710-1736)
  1. See our Saviour, bleeding, dying, On the Cross of Calvary;
    To that cross my sins have nailed him, Yet he bleeds and dies for me.
Hail, O Once-Despised Jesus
text: J. Blakewell (d.1757)
tune: Rex gloriæ | H. Smart (d.1879)
  1. Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, All our sins on you were laid.
    By almighty love anointed, You have full atonement made.
    All your people are forgiven Through the virtues of your blood;
    Opened is the gate of heaven, We shall live in peace with God.

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Hymns continued...

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