Poetry That Gives Pause: Lent

I’ve said this before: Poetry can be a powerful medium in so many ways. Especially in hymns and songs, I love it when there’s a moment when you suddenly become arrested with the words you’re hearing. There you are, singing along with words you know well, and suddenly you’re caught with a phrase that offers truth in a way you hadn’t thought of before.

One of my favorite parts of Lent is the hymns we sing. They are packed with poetry that gives pause! A few years ago, I wrote a whole month of devotions dedicated to lines in Lenten hymnody.

Today, I’ll share a few of my favorites with you. Which other lines strike you as you sing this season?


“Christ, the life of all the living, Christ, the death of death, our foe.”

Ernst, “Christ, the Life of All the Living”


“See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down!”

Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”


“What may I say? Heav’n was His home But mine the tomb Wherein He lay.”

Crossman, “My Song Is Love Unknown”


“Abel’s blood for vengeance Pleaded to the skies; But the blood of Jesus For our pardon cries.”

Italian; tr. Caswall, “Glory Be to Jesus”


“Shun not suff’ring, shame, or loss; Learn from Him to bear the cross.”

Montgomery, “Go to Dark Gethsemane”


“Lamb of God, foretold for ages, Now at last the hour had come When but One could pay sin’s wages; You assumed their dreadful sum.”

Vajda, “When You Woke That Thursday Morning”


“O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee.”

attr. Clairvaux; Gerhardt, tr. The Lutheran Hymnal, alt., “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”


Once again, I admire these lines because they say in a few precious words what could easily fill pages. I’ll therefore opt to let the words speak for themselves. I wish I could share more. (Look up “No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet” by Timothy Dudley-Smith, for example.) But that’ll have to do it for this post.

What poetic phrases give you pause this year?


*I used Lutheran Service Book for these quotes. For permission to reprint these texts, please contact copyrights@cph.org.