Know Britain Traditional Christian Hymns






A Brief Meditation on the Hymn

Here the composer expresses his awe and gratitude when contemplating the cross. It is indeed, a holy cross, but for the composer, in this hymn, it is "wondorous". It leaves us speechless when we contemplate this wonder of wonders. In what does this wonder consist? On this undignified, ignominious object, the wooden cross, placed between another two which bore the bodies of criminals, on this ignominious object we do not have a criminal but the "Prince of Glory".

That in itself far surpasses the limits of our human reasoning. Why should a prince, the Prince, die on such a symbol of degradation? Everything we hold dear just fades into the distance as we try to understand as we contemplate: "my richest gain I count but loss". Our pride, the pride of us mortals, is so absurd, placed in this context, as to be contemptible, "pour contempt on all my pride". If anyone deserved to be proud and exalted it is this Prince of glory that chose to die with such humility. Indeed a lesson in humility for us all. A person contemplating the cross loses all sense of pride. He stands naked before the cross, despoiled of whatever he takes pride in.

Pride and boasting have no justification, save only in the Lord. Everything that attracts us suddenly loses all value as our contemplation deepens and our understanding of the identity of that person becomes clearer: "Christ, my God".

The blood flowing freely from the cross, flowing from head, hands and feet is the outcome of the mingling of sorrow and love. Sorrow for the pain and suffering and love because he bore this for each one of us. Sorrow and love combine to "flow down", down where? To us: his sorrow, his love, his blood flows freely to us. The person who contemplates the cross is following the flow as it moves from head to hands and from hands to feet and from feet to those who stand at the foot of the cross, those who boast in the cross, those that embrace the life-giving cross.

The person contemplating this wondorous cross can only express his awe. This sacrifice is infinite, it cannot be matched, not even by the whole universe. In exchange we cannot give anything we can only give ourselves, all of ourselves. Anyone who contemplates the cross can no longer contemplate himself, anyone contemplating the cross must needs come to the same conclusion as the person who wrote the hymn, we no longer belong to ourselves but to the one who sacrificed himself for us: "love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all". The mystery of that love, the depth of that love, the infinite value of that love stuns us, it is beyond our understanding as the repetition of the word "so" reveals: "love so amazing, so divine".


When I Survey the Wondrous Cross


When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.


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latest update: 30/06/04