“Let us Thee, though lost, regain”

(Neil, here). This will have to be my last post for this year. My posting will also have to be infrequent in January. Since I will not be online later this month, let me wish all of you – especially Todd and his family – a blessed Christmas and New Year. I am grateful to everyone who reads and comments here for helping me meditate on what Todd, in describing this blog, has called “the important things.” In the unlikely event that you wish to read a couple posts of mine on Christmas during the next week, I would recommend my post on the theological significance of Christmas from last year, as well as my post on St Ephrem the Syrian and the infancy of Jesus from a little while ago. But I am sure that others have posted more eloquent things elsewhere.

Actually, I think that the very best things written on Christmas are the last verses of Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” which are not always sung. (I’ve written on Charles Wesley here.) Wesley’s original lyrics from Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739), which, of course, predate the familiar Mendelssohn tune, end:

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form
d in each believing heart.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to “Let us Thee, though lost, regain”

  1. Gavin says:

    Anything more than 3 verses and you alienate the congregation! No one has the attention span to listen to 5 verses! You’re too elitist with you music!

    Just kidding of course :P Charles Wesley really does make it a shame that hymnals (not just Catholic!) won’t print more than 4 verse of a hymn. His writing is extremely good! For Christmas, I’m inserting the removed verses from the hymns for Midnight Mass, should be good to sing “Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord…”

  2. Todd says:

    I dunno about you Gavin. My people love to sing all the verses.

  3. Gavin says:

    Every church I’ve been to, as soon as you can’t see the priest in the recession, you leave. My boss will wait for 4 verses before actually processing out. Offertory I do cut verses, but that’s why I prefer a voluntary or anthem there. Another good reason to follow the rules on purification is that we’ve yet had to end a communion hymn early (even Adoro Te!) because the priest sat down in the middle of the hymn. At the late Mass I improvise until he sits, but at the early I usually play the Gregorian proper then leave it silent. Otherwise, I don’t cut verses unless I have an artistic/theological reason to.

    Good to hear your church doesn’t do that! How is the actual singing there? And be honest :P just because you do “the songs we all love to sing” doesn’t mean they’ll actually sing them!

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    In my parish we sing all verses to every hymn we do. And the singing doesn’t flag at the end, even of the recessional.

    Folks who leave early tend to get withering looks of disapproval. They usually are visitors who apparently know no better.

    We regulars tend to come from all over to attend Most Holy Redeemer and we don’t find it a chore to stay there until the last note of the last hymn has died out.

    I guess that’s the difference between those who consider attending mass an obligation or something one HAS to do, versus those who are there because they want to be there.

  5. Neil says:

    Dear All,

    Thanks for commenting. It is interesting to speculate on why Catholics do or do not sing entire hymns or fail to sing them with a high level of personal involvement. I don’t mean to stop the conversation. (I myself have theories.)

    But the last verses of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” often go unsung, I think, for theological reasons. For instance, the current United Methodist Hymnal only has three verses for the hymn, while giving us six verses for “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” and “The Friendly Beasts.” The last verses, even in the altered version, are a strong statement that our natures are meant to be restored in “mystic union” with Jesus Christ. We are very close to the language of another Wesley hymn that suggests “we might partake the nature divine and again in his image, his holiness shine,” or another that says that Christ appeared in flesh “to bring our vileness near, and make us all divine.”

    One can easily imagine that certain Protestant churches would be uncomfortable with this side of Charles Wesley (and especially the words “mystic union”). Whether our brothers and sisters should be is a question for another time.

    I happen to like the last verses very much.

    Thanks.

    Neil

  6. Katherine says:

    Lovely — but how do you sing it? The verses seem too short for the usual melody. Is there another that works?

  7. Todd says:

    The tune for “Hark the Herald …” is a “double;” you can sing two stanzas for each run through the melody. When you see a hymn tune listed in a metrical index with a “D” on the end (for example 8.6.8.6.D) it’s been designed to cover two stanzas. Or a hymn with eight-line verses.

  8. Neil says:

    Dear Katherine,

    Thanks for writing. You can try an altered versification at Cyberhymnal here.

    You can also try singing it to another tune, if you would like – Wesley probably sung it to the Easter Hymn music of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.

    Best,
    Neil

  9. Neil says:

    … and what Todd said.

    I should note here that I can’t really sing. It’s somewhere on the depressing self-improvement list.

    Neil

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