When we take time to meditate, as we try to do during Lent, our thinking tends to be focused on ourselves. That’s not altogether bad for we need to examine ourselves, test our motives, and analyze what is actually filling our lives.
But the pattern of our age is that everything is about our self. So, it is easy to make even our spiritual devotion all about ourselves – a psychological exercise – rather than turning our attention and our devotion to the Lord.
The great hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” is a good example of that better kind of meditation. It has long thought to have been written by Bernard of Clairvaux around 1150 AD, but is now thought to have been written a hundred years later by the Medieval poet Arnulf of Leuven. Either way, the point is the same. That hymn was originally a meditation of Jesus’ body hanging on the cross, beginning with his feet, then his knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and head. What an interesting, outward-looking pattern of devotional meditation – one so foreign to our day.
Of course, the part of that ancient meditation which we know, is the part about Jesus’ head now made into this beautiful hymn:
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.