Music for the Second Sunday in Lent — March 5, 2023

Take Up Your Cross, the Saviour Said – Text: Charles William Everest (1814-1877) / Music: Melody Locheimer Gesangbuch 1452; harm. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

This Sunday’s offertory hymn in church, Take Up Your Cross the Saviour Said, was written by Charles William Everest in six stanzas of four lines, and published in his Visions of Death and other Poems 1833, when the author was only 19. The reference is to Mark 8:34. The strength of this hymn lies in the gradual approach towards a bid for commitment in stanza five. The author, a native of Connecticut, attended Trinity College, Hartford and graduated in 1838. After ordination in 1842 he was appointed rector of Hampden near New Haven, where he remained until 1873.

Breslau has been used more frequently for this hymn than any other tune. It grew out of a folksong, ‘Ich far dahin,’ which was in the Locheimer Gesangbuch c. 1452. Many variants were known in Germany up to the end of the 17th century. Mendelssohn used it as a chorale in his oratorio St. Paul; Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861 used the tune twice. Bach used a melody in his Choralgesänge to the words ‘Ach Gott, wie manches Herzelied,’ which appears to be founded on this melody. The form in our hymn books owes more to Mendelssohn than to any other person.

Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
If thou wouldst my disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
Take up thy cross; let not its weight
Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear thy spirit up,
And brace thy heart, and nerve thine arm.
Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let thy foolish pride rebel;
The Lord for thee the Cross endured,
To save thy soul from death and hell.
Take up thy cross then in his strength,
And calmly every danger brave;
‘Twill guide thee to a better home,
And lead to victory o’er the grave.
Take up thy cross, and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.
To thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us in our home to see
The heavenly life that knows no end.

Gerald Harder