O God, why are you silent?

Here’s a very interesting text of Marty Haugen’s, apparently to be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (I haven’t got to it there yet, but found it, sparked by a Sunday’ Hymn post at field stone cottage while researching the relationship between the PASSION CHORALE (aka Herzlich tut mich verlangen) and Paul Simon’s American Tune, here).

O God, why are you silent? I cannot hear your voice;
the proud and strong and violent all claim you and rejoice;
you promised you would hold me with tenderness and care.
Draw near, O Love, enfold me, and ease this pain I bear.

(Here are the missing interior verses, supplied from ELW:)

My hope lies bruised and battered,
my wounded heartis torn;
my spirit spent and shattered
by life’s relentless storm;
will you not bend to hear me,
my cries from deep within?
Have you no word to cheer me
when night is closing in?

Through endless nights of weeping,
through weary days of grief,
my heart is in your keeping,
my comfort, my relief.
Come, share my tears and sadness,
come, suffer in my pain,
oh, bring me home to gladness,
restore my hope again.

May pain draw forth compassion, let wisdom rise from loss;
oh, take my heart and fashion the image of your cross;
then may I know your healing, through healing that I share,
your grace and love revealing, your tenderness and care.

The text is ©2003 by GIA. I agree with “Lutheran Huckster” that the outer verses stand well on their own.

Another thing this leads me to is the following two versions of O Sacred Head, from the African American Heritage Hymnal (which sets the first to a recent tune, REDDING, by David Hurd, © 1983 GIA, and the second to PASSION CHORALE):

O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded
vv. 1-3, 5 tr. Robert S. Bridges, v. 4 tr. James W. Alexander

O sacred head, sore wounded, defiled and put to scorn;
O kingly head, surrounded with mocking crown of thorn;
What sorrow mars thy grandeur? Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor the hosts of heaven adore!

Thy beauty, long desirèd, hath vanished from our sight;
Thy power is all expirèd, and quenched the Light of light.
Ah me! for whom thou diest, hide not so far thy grace:
Show me, O Love most highest, the brightness of thy face.

In thy most bitter passion my heart to share doth cry,
with thee for my salvation upon the cross to die.
Ah, keep my heart thus movèd to stand thy cross beneath,
to mourn thee, well-belovèd, yet thank thee for thy death.

What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever! And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for thee.

My days are few, O fail not, with thine immortal power,
to hold me that I quail not in death’s most fearful hour:
That I may fight befriended, and see in my last strife
to me thine arms extended upon the cross of life.

O Sacred Head Surrounded
tr. Henry Baker, pronouns presumably modernized

O Sacred Head surrounded by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded, reviled and put to scorn!
The power of death comes o’er thee, the glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore thee, and tremble as they gaze.

I see thy strength and vigor all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor, bereaving thee of life;
O agony and dying! O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying, O turn thy face on me.

In this, thy bitter passion, Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion, unworthy though I be:
Beneath thy cross abiding forever I would rest,
in thy dear love confiding, and with thy presence blest.

Both versions (as well as the one at field stone cottage, which I take to be the full Alexander translation) are based on the Latin hymn, incipit Salve caput cruentatum, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century, as rendered into German as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (10 verses here) by Paul Gerhardt in the 17th century… A thoroughly powerful hymn in any version; I remember singing it on a couple of occasions at the Tenebrae service at St. Paul’s (now COTA) back in the ’90s…

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3 Respondoj to “O God, why are you silent?”

  1. Dorothy Says:

    Thanks for mentioning me, Leland. I’m glad you found my post useful. Yours is quite interesting.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Do you know where I might be able to find an audio for the song? I have searched iTunes to no avail. Thanks.
    Also thank you for posting the lyrics- they are beautiful.

    • Haruo Says:

      Sorry, somehow I just saw this comment, Lisa. The chances are that GIA has a recording, but they would want money for it. If you just want an accompaniment, anything listed as PASSION CHORALE or as HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN would do.

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