Passiontide: “Ah, Holy Jesus”

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In the 53rd chapter, the prophet Isaiah writes: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” This sentiment is echoed by St. John: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

This is the scriptural foundation of the first verse of the hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus” written by Johann Heermann in the 17th Century:

“Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended, 
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended? 
By foes derided, by thine own rejected, 
O most afflicted!” 

Heermann here represents how the Reformation composers (and specifically German Lutherans) elevated their hymnody with Scripture-saturated verses. His beautiful and heartfelt hymns were born out of a period of fierce religious turmoil in central Europe as Ferdinand II attempted to violently suppress the Reformation churches. This led to the period known as the Thirty Years’ War. During which Heerman himself faced the sword and narrowly escaped from soldier’s fire.

It is as refugees for the faith that men like Heermann experienced suffering for our Lord’s name and were able to sympathize with his own rejection and sorrow. It is then no surprise that the faith that carried them through these periods of tumult also produced such beautiful hymns of praise to their suffering savior.

This hymn can be found as #71 in The Hymnal (1940‎).

 

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Steve Macias
Father Steve Macias is an Anglican priest in California's Silicon Valley. He is the Headmaster of Canterbury Christian School, Rector of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church, and Archdeacon of the West Coast for the Anglican Churches of America. He is married to Sarah and the father to Athanasius, Anselm, Assumpta, Basil and Zoe. His professional work consulting with political campaigns, leading nonprofit organizations, and in the California State Capitol has been recognized by The Los Angeles Times, National Review Magazine, Our Sunday Visitor, The Chalcedon Foundation, and numerous online and print publications. You can reach him on twitter @stevemacias.