Hymns for Good Friday

Last year, our family joined a church that observes the church calendar and uses traditional liturgy in its worship. During Advent, I was able to contribute a new hymn to the church’s worship, and tonight, during our Tenebrae service, we’ll be singing two of the Good Friday hymns I wrote for my master’s thesis. You can download the full set here.

Early in the service, the congregation will sing “The Second Word: The Song of the Thief.” The hymns follow the story of the crucifixion, and several of them are written from the perspective of one or more of the participants. In this case, it is the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who is struggling to understand how Jesus can promise him Paradise while dying on the cross. Continue reading

More About the Seven Last Words

I hope that my hymn cycle based on Christ’s Seven Last Words helps you reflect on Good Friday and Easter this year. If you’re from a church tradition that doesn’t have a service observing the Seven Last Words (like mine), here is some background about these sayings. They aren’t “words” per se, but the sayings of Jesus from the cross, traditionally recognized by Christians as especially significant.

Each of these hymn lyrics, except for the Seventh Word, was written to an existing tune. Part of my love for hymns is their cross-cultural, cross-generational nature. Here’s just one example. My lyric, the Fifth Word, based on “I thirst,” was written to the tune “Love Unknown,” by early-20th-century composer John Ireland. But Ireland wrote his tune in order to fit a poem by Samuel Crossman (what a name!), written in 1664. It amazes me how the grace of Christ crosses over the centuries, and how I could take a part in this artistic conversation about the power of the cross.