Matthew Kozlowski reflects on Isaac Watts hymn on the Christ’s work on the cross.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts was born in 1674, and wrote his first hymn at the age of 20. From that time forward, Watts published more than 800 hymn texts. The following hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross,” is one of his most famous texts, and it is especially powerful on Holy Week and Good Friday. Notice how Watts juxtaposes and blends themes of suffering, love, and glory. Notice too, that the hymn (written in the first person) is all about a personal response to Christ’s work on the cross.
As we enter the Triduum, may Watts’ words challenge us, inspire us, and draw us ever closer to Jesus Christ, his sacrifice, and his love.
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.