John Bowring’s hymn, written in 1825, continues to touch me each Lent:
“In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.”
Sir Bowring was a knight who served in Parliament twice. A respected scholar, he was fluent in multiple languages, including Russian, Batavian, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, Bohemian, Magyar, Czech and Hungarian. He was a social progressive who worked to make education available to all and was an advocate of prison reform.
He wrote this hymn when he was in his early thirties. In it we see the transforming power of God. The cross, a symbol of suffering and death, is changed into glorious victory and triumph.
Dr. Hawn, a professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology writes: “It is one of the paradoxes of Christianity that an instrument of torture becomes a symbol of faith for all time where “All the light of sacred story/Gathers round its head sublime.”
If you are interested in exploring the history of hymns, this United Methodist link will assist you:
Our Lenten sermon series, “Love Speaks,” focuses on the last words of Christ from the Cross. Be still and listen this Lenten season. Draw near to the Cross and lean in to hear Jesus speak to you.
Pastor Cathy Johns