1 O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
how passing thought and fantasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take
our mortal form for mortals’ sake!
2 He sent no angel to our race,
of higher or of lower place,
but wore the robe of human frame,
and He Himself to this world came.
3 For us baptized, for us He bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore;
for us temptations sharp He knew,
for us the tempter overthrew.
4 For us to wicked men betrayed,
scourged, mocked, in crown of thorns arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death
for us at length gave up His breath.
5 For us He rose from death again,
for us He went on high to reign,
for us He sent His Spirit here
to guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.
6 All glory to our Lord and God
for love so deep, so high, so broad —
the Trinity whom we adore
forever and forevermore.
Source: Hymns to the Living God #141
|First Line:||O love, how deep, how broad, how high|
|Title:||O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High|
|Latin Title:||O amor quam ecstaticus!|
|Author (attributed to):||Thomas á Kempis|
|Source:||Latin, 15th cent.|
Though this text has been attributed to Thomas à Kempis due to similarities with his famous devotional book, The Imitation of Christ, it is likely an anonymous text. Written in the fifteenth century, the Latin original had twenty-three stanzas. Benjamin Webb translated eight of them into English. These were published in The Hymnal Noted in the early 1850s.
The text is fairly stable, with a few variations in the wording of some lines and some differences on exactly which stanzas are included. Some hymnals include a stanza beginning “He sent no angel to our race” as the second, but most omit this one. Though there is some variation in the last doxological stanza, most hymnals have the one beginning “All glory to our Lord and God,” which refers back to the first stanza in its second line, “For love so deep, so high, so broad.”
The first stanza extols the extent of God’s love that prompted Christ to come and redeem us, and the final stanza is a doxology. The intervening stanzas tell the story of Christ’s life, from birth to ascension.
The tune most commonly associated with this text also comes from the fifteenth century. DEO GRACIAS, also known as AGINCOURT, comes from music written to celebrate Henry V’s victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Instead of accepting personal glory for the victory, Henry V insisted that thanks be given to God for the victory, hence the title meaning “thanks be to God” in Latin. The first use of this tune as a hymn tune is in the English Hymnal of 1906, with the text “O Saviour, Jesu, not alone.”
Another tune that is used with this text is PUER NOBIS, also from the fifteenth century. It is the tune associated with a Latin Christmas hymn titled “Puer nobis nascitur,” which is a trope (that is, an additional section of text and music elaborating an existing chant) on a Mass benediction, “Benedicamus Domino.”
Since the theme of many of the stanzas is the love of Jesus as shown through His life, this hymn is appropriate for seasons that focus on such themes, such as the later part of Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, or Ascension. A simple choral setting, such as “O Love, How Deep,” with original music by Jane Linder, could be used as a choral anthem. For congregational accompaniment, “The Art of Hymn Playing” contains a setting of DEO GRACIAS with a Renaissance sound. “Variations on PUER NOBIS” is a collection of twelve short settings of this tune which can be used for hymn introductions; some can also be used to accompany congregational singing.
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org