Music in Lent?
I’m always on a search for faithful songs from my tradition (Lutheran) in new arrangements, but in this quest I come across hymns and other songs from other traditions that somehow speak to me. One such hymn is Idumæa.
I seem to be, unintentionally, collecting a variety of recordings of this song, mostly because the album Black Ships Ate the Sky by Current 93. (If you buy this expecting an album of Christian music, you’ll be highly disappointed.) Black Ships Ate the Sky has nine different versions of this Wesleyan hymn including this one:
Sufjan Stevens included a version of Idumea on his latest Christmas release. He does it in the style of the Sacred Harp Singers. Sufjan does put some odd things on his Christmas albums. This song always puts me in a Lenten mood, which is why this song is so prevalent in my Lenten play list.
The lyrics of the Wesley hymn are:
|And am I born to die?
To lay this body down?
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown –
A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought,
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot?
Soon as from earth I go,
How shall I leave my tomb?
|Who can resolve the doubt
That tears my anxious breast?
Shall I be with the damned cast out,
Or numbered with the blest?
I must from God be driven,
Or with my Saviour dwell;
Must come at his command to heaven,
Or else – depart to hell.
O thou that wouldst not have
Thou art thyself the Way;
It is a rare thing to hear any of the more hopeful verses at the end of the song. I’m not a big fan of the works righteousness aspects, but there is something in the sense of doubt, and desolation, that I appreciate, especially as it is tempered with the certainty of a home in heaven.