Hymn of the Week: Hymn 143
April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
To be honest, I signed up to write a blog post on a “hymn of the week” as a form of Lenten discipline. Although I love to sing, I don’t much like the Lenten hymns, and it took me quite a while to settle upon a hymn that would inspire me enough to write a coherent paragraph or two. One of the reasons I chose hymn 143, whose words, the hymnal tells us, date from the sixth century, is that this hymn is the only one that starts with the possibility that Lent’s forty days are “glory.” That it begins not with gloom, but glory to be celebrated with songs of praise, places this hymn in the realm in which Lent is indeed a season in which we prepare with joy to celebrate the Easter resurrection. This opening is a statement of the way I aspire to participate in Lent, a reminder not to lose sight of the fact that Lenten discipline and practices can make this a season of praise as well as penance.
In five short verses, the hymn propels us from Christ, back to the Hebrew Scriptures with Moses, Elijah, and Daniel, quickly returning us to the New Testament with John the Baptist as the herald of the Messiah. We are presented with our historical models to prepare us to ask the Lord to grant us the grace to be like them, and through prayer and fasting come to see the joy of our salvation. The middle verses suggest that fasting too is a means of praise and prayer. The hymn closes with reference to the eternal mystery of the Trinity, adored from age to age, uniting believers everywhere and across centuries.
For me, hymn 143 encapsulates what the season of Lent is all about: tradition, fasting, prayer, and contemplation of sacred mystery, all of which are preparation for the joy of the resurrection.
– Julia Alberino