Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lift High the Cross

This text was written by an Anglican clergyman named George W. Kitchin for a festival of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel held in his cathedral at Winchester, June of 1887. Most likely the seminal thought arose from Emperor Constantine's 312 A.D. vision of the Cross of Christ in the sky with the words "In hoc signo vinces" (In this sign you shall conquer). Constantine's vision was reported by the ancient historian Eusebius (c. 260-339).

This hymn is recommended in Lutheran Service Book as the Hymn of the Day for St. Barnabas, celebrated today on June 11th. Intended for use as a processional, the following versicle may be said at the entrance into the chancel:
V: God forbid that I should glory,
R: save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
Till all the world adore His sacred name.

1. Come, Christians, follow where our Captain trod,
Our king victorious, Christ, the Son of God. Refrain

2. Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God in conqu'ring ranks combine. Refrain

3. All newborn soldiers of the Crucified
Bear on their brows the seal of Him of died. Refrain

4. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised, draw us all to Thee. Refrain

5. Let every race and every language tell
Of Him who saves our lives from death and hell. Refrain

6. So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory! Refrain

Additional stanzas

This is the sign which Satan's legions fear
And angels veil their faces to revere.

Saved by this cross whereon their Lord was slain,
The sons of Adam their lost home regain.

From north and south, from east and west they raise
In growing unison their songs of praise.

From farthest regions let them homage bring,
And on His cross adore their Savior King.

Set up Your throne, that earth's despair may cease
Beneath the shadow of its healing peace.

For Your blest cross which does for all atone
Creation's praises rise before Your throne.


Anonymous said...

This hymn gets a lot of bad press amongst confessional Lutherans. I will be the first to say I'm not a big fan of it. That is partly because it seemed like we sang it every day for four years at Seward when I went to college in the 80s/90s.

Plus that one verse about the crucified bear has always seemed odd to me...

Anyway, thanks for your insights! I'm enjoying it very much

Orianna Laun said...

The additional stanzas are good; I especially like the one which talks about the sons of Adam being restored. I wonder why those aren't included in many hymnals.

I have often wondered about the change in stanza 4 from "Raise us and let your cross the magnet be" to "As Thou hast promised, draw us all to Thee". Why the change?

Todd, I don't remember singing it THAT much at Seward! :)

Anonymous said...

According to Aufdemberge, the original text was:

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious Tree
As thou hast promised, draw men unto thee.

So the "magnet" language was an LW invention. LSB went back to the original (more or less).


Jon Vieker
St. Louis, MO

amelithpastor said...

Yes, this was an example of "downdating" in LSB. The "magnet be" language in LW was most likely to avoid the archaic "Thee." Yet, the stanza as restored in LSB is much more closely aligned to the biblical language of John 12:32.

Making "the sign of the holy cross on the forehead and on the heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified..." Does God indeed place his "brand" upon us in Holy Baptism? I'd like to think so. That has always been a favorite stanza of mine. Interesting how a text speaks differently to different individuals...

chajin said...

My wife and I were married at part of a Saturday evening service at our church (Grace Lutheran LCMS, Winter Haven, FL), and we were part of the processional behind the cross, processing to this hymn. It became "our hymn," our statement to God and each other that our marriage would follow His Cross. After years of debilitating illness, my wife entered into her rest seven weeks ago, and this was the processional hymn at her memorial service, as, may God grant, it will be at mine.