“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
Earlier this week, in one of the prayers, we paraphrased the second stanza of this hymn, which is one of more than 750 that Isaac Watts wrote. This one evokes the theology of the cross, because it stresses not what we have or do, but what Jesus did. He died on the cross for us. All that we are or possess, our richest gains, are as nothing compared to what the prince of glory did.
In western art there are many depictions of the crucifixion. One painting that forcefully captures the essence of Watts’ hymn is Matthias Grünewald’s “Crucifixion,” the major part of the Isenheim Altarpiece. It was completed in 1515, on the eve of the Reformation. It depicts an emaciated Christ on an unforgiving cross. To look at Grünewald’s painting and sing Watts’ hymn is to get a sense of that all-embracing sorrow and love—love so amazing, so divine.
Almighty God, your son, our savior, suffered at human hands and endured the scandal of the cross. Grant us strength, wisdom and fortitude to walk the way of the cross so that we may find life and peace. Amen.
“Let Us Hold Fast” is a publication of Luther Seminary.2481 Como Ave. | St. Paul, MN 55108, 651-641-3456 | 888-358-8437 www.luthersem.edu