Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

Representative Text

1 Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.

2 O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
to those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

3 But what to those who find? Ah, this
nor tongue nor pen can show;
the love of Jesus, what it is,
none but his loved ones know.

4 Jesus, our only joy be thou,
as thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
and through eternity.

United Methodist Hymnal, 1989

Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux, saint, abbot, and doctor, fills one of the most conspicuous positions in the history of the middle ages. His father, Tecelin, or Tesselin, a knight of great bravery, was the friend and vassal of the Duke of Burgundy. Bernard was born at his father's castle on the eminence of Les Fontaines, near Dijon, in Burgundy, in 1091. He was educated at Chatillon, where he was distinguished for his studious and meditative habits. The world, it would be thought, would have had overpowering attractions for a youth who, like Bernard, had all the advantages that high birth, great personal beauty, graceful manners, and irresistible influence could give, but, strengthened in the resolve by night visions of his mother (who had died in 1… Go to person page >

Translator: Edward Caswall

Edward Caswall was born in 1814, at Yately, in Hampshire, where his father was a clergyman. In 1832, he went to Brasenose College, Oxford, and in 1836, took a second-class in classics. His humorous work, "The Art of Pluck," was published in 1835; it is still selling at Oxford, having passed through many editions. In 1838, he was ordained Deacon, and in 1839, Priest. He became perpetural Curate of Stratford-sub-Castle in 1840. In 1841, he resigned his incumbency and visited Ireland. In 1847, he joined the Church of Rome. In 1850, he was admitted into the Congregation of the Oratory at Birmingham, where he has since remained. He has published several works in prose and poetry. --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Jesus! the very thought of thee
Title: Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Latin Title: Jesu dulcis memoria
Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux
Translator: Edward Caswall
Meter: 8.6.8.6
Source: Latin, 12th century
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Communion Songs

Notes

Scripture References: all st. = Eph. 3:19 The extended (forty-two stanzas) Latin poem 'Jesu, dulcis memo¬ria" is the source of this text (see discussion at PHH 307, which includes its traditional attribution to Bernard of Clairveaux). Although some scholars believe the poem was written by Bernard, others suggest that it originated in Britain at the end of the twelfth century. Most agree, however, that the poem's fervor was influenced by the famous Bernard. The English text is taken from a fifty-stanza translation by Edward Caswall (PHH 438) published in his Lyra Catholica (1849), where the opening line read “Jesu, the very thought of Thee.” Displaying a passionate devotion to Christ, the text provides a clear hint of its original use as a text for personal devotion. Its focus is entirely on Christ and his saving love, a love that gives hope, joy, and rest to believers (st. 1,3), a love that excels any human love (st. 2, 4). Liturgical Use: Worship that focuses on Christ's redemptive work; Lord's Supper; Lent. --Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987

Tune

ST. AGNES (Dykes)

John B. Dykes (PHH 147) composed ST. AGNES for [Jesus the Very Thought of Thee]. Dykes named the tune after a young Roman Christian woman who was martyred in A.D. 304 during the reign of Diocletian. St. Agnes was sentenced to death for refusing to marry a nobleman to whom she said, "I am already eng…

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