Music in Lent?

Christ The Mediator

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:

Idumæa (vocals Antony)

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,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be;
Waked by the trumpet’s sound,
I from my grave shall rise,
And see the Judge with glory crowned,
And see the flaming skies.

How shall I leave my tomb?
With triumph or regret?
A fearful or a joyful doom,
A curse or blessing meet?
Will angel-bands convey
Their brother to the bar?
Or devils drag my soul away,
To meet its sentence there?

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
One wretched sinner die,
Who died’st thyself; my soul to save
From endless misery!
Show me the way to shun
Thy dreadful wrath severe,
That when thou comest on thy throne
I may with joy appear.

Thou art thyself the Way;
Thyself in me reveal;
So shall I spend my life’s short day
Obedient to thy will;
So shall I love my God,
Because he first loved me,
And praise thee in thy bright abode,
To all eternity.

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.


One thought on “Music in Lent?

  1. Pingback: Music in Lent? | Uncle Frog

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