Songs of the Passion of Christ

We now come to one of the thornier problems in the hymnal project: those “Lenten hymns” which are really songs of the suffering of Christ on the Cross. These were often sung in connection with Stations of the Cross and other Lenten services which were imported from the Christian West, and replaced our own services such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Lenten Vespers, and the Royal Hours on Great and Holy Friday.

In addition to those printed in our 1978 Divine Liturgy book, our “core” collection of these hymns is Father Levkulic’s Hymns for Great Lent. About half the context of this work is strictly liturgical: music for the Liturgy of Saint Basil, the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes, the troparion of Thursday, and the hymn, Beneath your compassion, which is sung at Vespers on fast days.  This music we already have in official versions, and need not concern us here.

There are also Lenten hymns in this  collection which are properly hymns of repentance, that could be sung at services throughout the Great Fast as well as our minor fasts.  We discussed those in a previous thread,  as well as a pair of songs for Palm Sunday.

The remaining hymns in this collection are very specifically about the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross. In our tradition, these would be most suitably sung during Great and Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

These should definitely be considered for the hymnal:

The ones marked with an asterisk could use a literal translation of the Slavonic to accompany the music, and also have additional verses we might want to consider. (One problem with some of our English hymns is that they take only the first few stanzas of a much longer composition, and so focus on only a small part of the whole drama of Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection. In these cases, more verses would be a good thing!)

This hymn, though popular in our church in the past, has a very complicated history, as regards both text and music. I am looking for someone who would be willing to do the work to establish a printable version of it in English and Slavonic.

The following hymns are more problematic.  If your parish sings these hymns and you want them included, let me know in the comments.

  • O my Jesus, suffering in pain (O Isuse, poranennyj)
  • O my people, my people (L’udi moje, l’udi)
  • O soul so sinful (Hl’an duše moja)
  • We venerate, O Christ (Poklanjajusja, moj Christe)

Please leave your comments below – as well as any additional Lenten hymns you would like to have us consider!