Love's Redeeming Work is Done

During this time whilst we can’t sing together in worship we are aiming to post a different hymn each week.  For some Sundays it will be the obvious hymn in Common Praise for a particular Sunday and a brief commentary – partly with reference to The Penguin Book of Hymns edited by Ian Bradley – will be published with our hymn choice for the week.  The words of the hymn will be provided alongside a recording of the hymn, courtesy of Lucy Colbourne at home whilst Lancaster University is in lockdown.  This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of his Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

Love's Redeeming Work is Done

 

Love’s redeeming work is done;
fought the fight, the battle won:
lo, our Sun’s eclipse is o’er,
lo, he sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
death in vain forbids his rise;
Christ has opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
dying once, he all doth save;
where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led,
following our exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise;
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now;
hail, the Resurrection Thou!

 Words: Charles Wesley

Tune: Savannah
Music: Melody from Herrnhut Collection
 

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Hymn Commentary 

This week’s hymn is Love’s Redeeming Work is Done, one of the shorter Eastertide hymns in Common Praise.  But it is a very dramatic hymn as it very poetically describes Christ’s victory over death.  In verse two, ‘Christ has burst the gates of hell’ and, as death can not stop his rise to his father in Heaven, ‘Christ has opened paradise’.  Just before Christ’s disciple Stephen was stoned to death, he proclaimed “I can see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”.  Is it any surprise that verse two opens with ‘Vain the stone’?

It hasn’t been pointed out yet that Love’s Redeeming Work is Done was written by Charles Wesley (1707-88).  In terms of quantity but above all quality, he must be considered as being one of the greatest hymn writers of all time.  Born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, he ended his days in London and a Memorial Stone to him stands in the gardens in Marylebone High Street.  To my shame I never saw it, although I must have passed it many times as my college, Trinity College of Music, stood not very far from there in the 1980’s.  My excuse at the time would perhaps have been that my interest was more in music than word.  I would have easily told you that one of Charles Wesley’s sons was Samuel Wesley, an English composer; and one of Samuel’s sons was Samuel Sebastian Wesley who, in the 19th century, was one of England’s leading church musicians and composers.  Even before I was a student I had become very fond of much of Samuel Sebastian’s music as a choirboy.

Before we go back to the hymn it is perhaps worth looking at the origins of the hymn tune Savannah.  The melody was composed by Johannes Thommen (1711-1783) but it is where it first became famous that is of more interest.  Originally in the Herrnhut Collection (Herrnhut is in a corner of Eastern Germany near Dresden), John Wesley (1703-1791) included this melody in his own Foundery Collection.  This Wesley – the final one I will mention today – was, of course, the founder of Methodism and the significance of the Foundery Collection is that it restored “the relevance of Methodist Hymns” (not my words, but the result of a Google search).

Back to the hymn.  In the third verse Christ’s victory is confirmed before we, in verse four, are encouraged to follow him.  And this all builds up to the final triumphant verse in which we greet the resurrection message of Easter.  It follows the theme that we have been following for the last few weeks: to celebrate the resurrection, to share in it, to benefit from it and to trust God because of it.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

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