Lift high the cross – Text: George William Kitchin (1827-1912); alt. Michael Robert Newbolt (1874-1956) / Music: Sydney Hugo Nicholson (1875-1947); arr. Sterling Procter (b. 1950)

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In this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus predicts his Passion for the first time, and goes on to describe the costs and rewards of discipleship, including a willingness to take up one’s cross. The hymn presented here speaks of courage, costly demands, and promise, quite in keeping with Jesus’ exhortation. The hymn had its origin in verses written by George William Kitchin. These were revised by Michael Newbolt in twelve stanzas of two lines for the 1916 supplement to Hymns Ancient & Modern, with the first stanza used as the refrain.

Our hymnal Common Praise, where Lift high the cross is found at 602, uses only the first stanza of Kitchin and Newbolt’s, also as the refrain. The verses here are those of the late New Zealand hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray. The original texts have been amended a number of times, or replaced entirely, as in the case of Common Praise, quite likely a response by hymnal editors to the somewhat militaristic language of Kitchin and Newbolt. The text sung in this rendition, shown below, represent yet another revision of these words.

The tune Crucifer was composed for these words by Sydney Hugo Nicholson when they first appeared in Hymns Ancient & Modern. Nicholson was appointed organist and choirmaster at Wesminster Abbey in 1918, and in 1927 retired from the Abbey to establish the School of English Church Music, now known as the Royal School of Church Music. He was knighted in 1938. Not only is this his most successful tune: it has become so thoroughly wedded to Lift high the cross that it is doubtful anyone would think of proposing an alternative.


Lift High the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred Name.

Come, Christians, follow this triumphant sign,

the hosts of God in unity combine. [Refrain]

Each newborn servant of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died. [Refrain]

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. [Refrain]

So shall our song of triumph ever be:
praise to the Crucified for victory. [Refrain]


Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht – Max Reger (1873-1916)

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Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht (“I do not let go of my Jesus”) is a German Lutheran hymn written by Christian Keimann in 1658. The theme of the hymn is trust in Jesus, based on memorial sermons for John George I, Elector of Saxony, recalling conversations of the elector with his minister on his deathbed. The hymn is sung to melodies by Andreas Hammerschmidt, Johann Crüger and Johann Ulich, all 17th century German composers. The melody by Ulich, composed in 1674, is most common today, and is the one upon which Max Reger based his chorale cantata for soprano, choir, violin, viola and organ, written in 1906.

Max Reger, whose full name was Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger, was a German composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and teacher. He worked as a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, and as a music director at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen. Reger created music in almost every genre, except for opera and the symphony. He saw himself as being part of the tradition of Beethoven and Brahms. His work often combined the classical structures of these composers with the extended harmonies of Liszt and Wagner, to which he added the complex counterpoint of Bach.

Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.
Weil er sich für mich gegeben,
So erfordert meine Pflicht,
Klettenweis’ an ihm zu kleben;
Er ist meines Lebens Licht;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.

Jesum laß’ ich nimmer nicht,
Weil ich soll auf Erden leben;
Ihm hab’ ich voll Zuversicht,
Was ich bin und hab’, ergeben;
Alles ist auf ihn gericht’t;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.

Laß vergehen das Gesicht,
Hören, Schmecken, Fühlen weichen,
Laß das letzte Tageslicht
Mich auf dieser Welt erreichen,
Wenn der Lebensfaden bricht;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.

Ich werd’ ihn auch laßen nicht,
Wenn ich nun dahin gelanget,
Wo vor seinem Angesicht
Frommer Christen Glaube pranget;
Mich erfreut sein Angesicht;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.

Nicht nach Welt, nach Himmel nicht
Meine Seele wünscht und sehnet;
Jesum wünscht sie und sein Licht,
Der mich hat mit Gott versöhnet,
Der mich freiet vom Gericht;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht.

Jesum laß’ ich nicht von mir,
Geh’ ihm ewig an der Seiten;
Christus wird mich für und für
Zu dem Lebensbächlein leiten.
Selig, wer mit mir so spricht;
Meinen Jesum laß’ ich nicht!

I shall not leave my Jesus.
Since he has given himself on me,
my duty therefore demands
that I should cling to him like a limpet;
he is the light of my life;
I shall not leave my Jesus

I shall never leave Jesus,
while I must live on earth;
with confidence I have given to him
what I have and am;
everything is directed towards him:
I shall not leave my Jesus

Let sight pass away
let hearing, taste, sensation fade,
let the last day’s light
of this world reach me,
as the thread of life breaks;
I shall not leave my Jesus.

I shall also not leave him,
when I have once reached the place
where before his face
the faith of righteous Christians is resplendent;
his face gives me delight;
I shall not leave my Jesus

Not for the world, not for heaven
does my soul wish and long;
its wish is for Jesus and his light,
who has reconciled me with God
who has freed me from the law court;
I shall not leave my Jesus.

I shall not let Jesus go from me,
I shall go along always by his side;
for ever and ever Christ will
lead me to the waters of life.
Blessed is the man who says with me;
I shall not leave my Jesus.

Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht (Op. 67, No. 26) – Max Reger

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An accomplished organist and prolific composer of works for the organ, this is a quiet and somewhat more introspective setting of the same hymn tune presented in Max Reger’s chorale cantata of the same name (above).


Gerald Harder