Clef Notes

March 21, 2024

By: Stephen Schall

Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion. It’s a festive and solemn service. First, we gather on the front lawn with our palm to hear the story of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, then join the parade into the sanctuary singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” Once there, we turn to the Word Service in which we hear the ancient Christological hymn from Philippians, “Christ became obedient for us.” Dianna Hollo and the choir will lead us in a Jewish-inspired responsorial psalm setting of Psalm 31 in which each section ends with the Hebrew phrase, Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani? [My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?]. Following that, we will hear the passion according to Mark chanted by Rob Frankenberry and members of the choir. Chanting the passion is a tradition that began as long ago as the fourth century! For me, the singing heightens the impact of the story by setting it apart from the other spoken parts of the service. Having different voices sing the different characters in the story gives it more immediacy.

After the sermon, we sing the powerful hymn, “My Song Is Love Unknown,” penned by the 17th-century English cleric, Samuel Crossman. Crossman was a Puritan, which caused him some trouble with the Church of England. Written in 1664, the hymn is nearly universally sung to the marvelous tune by John Ireland (1879-1962), LOVE UNKNOWN. Composed in 1925, Ireland wrote the tune at the suggestion of organist and fellow composer, Geoffrey Shaw, over a conversation at lunch. It was reportedly written in 15 minutes on the back of a menu. It must’ve been a great lunch because the tune is a perfect vehicle for the astounding images in the text.

You may want to consider using it as a meditation during Holy Week.
My song is love unknown,
my Saviour’s love to me;
love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh and die?

He came from his blest throne
salvation to bestow;
but men made strange, and none
the longed-for Christ would know.
But O, my Friend,
my Friend indeed,
who at my need
his life did spend!

Sometimes they strew His way,
and His sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then ‘Crucify!’
is all their breath,
and for His death
they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries!
yet they at these
themselves displease,
and ‘gainst him rise.

They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful He
to suffering goes,
that He His foes
from thence might free.

In life no house, no home
my Lord on earth might have;
in death no friendly tomb
but what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was his home;
but mine the tomb
wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing:
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like Thine!
This is my Friend,
in Whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.[5]
— Samuel Crossman, Common Praise 112