1 O love, how deep, how broad, how high!
It fills the heart with ecstasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take
our mortal form for mortals’ sake.
2 For us he was baptized and bore
his holy fast, and hungered sore.
For us temptation sharp he knew,
for us the tempter overthrew.
3 For us he prayed, for us he taught,
for us his daily works he wrought,
by words and signs and actions thus
still seeking not himself but us.
4 For us to wicked hands betrayed,
scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
he bore the shameful cross and death,
for us at length gave up his breath.
5 Eternal glory to our God
for love so deep, so high, so broad;
the Trinity whom we adore
forever and forevermore.
Source: Voices Together #303
|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.|
st. 1 = Eph. 3:18-19, Phil. 2:7
st. 2 = Matt. 3:13, Matt. 4:1-11
st. 3 = John 17:9
st. 4 = Rom 4:25, 1 Pet. 2:24
st. 5 = Rom. 8:34, John 16:7, 13
The original anonymous text in Latin ("O amor quam ecstaticus") comes from a fifteenth-century manuscript from Karlsruhe. The twenty-three-stanza text has been attributed to Thomas à Kempis because of its similarities to writings of the Moderna Devotio Movement associated with à Kempis. (that movement was an important precursor of the Reformation in the Netherlands). However, there is insufficient proof that he actually wrote this text.
Benjamin Webb (b. London, England, 1819; d. Marylebone, London, 1885) translated the text in eight stanzas. It was published in The Hymnal Noted (1852), produced by his friend John Mason Neale (PHH 342). Webb received his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, and became a priest in the Church of England in 1843. Among the parishes he served was St. Andrews, Wells Street, London, where he worked from 1862 to 1881. Webb's years there coincided with the service of the talented choir director and organist Joseph Barnby (PHH 438), and the church became known for its excellent music program. Webb edited The Ecclesiologist, a periodical of the Cambridge Ecclesiological Society (1842-1868). A composer of anthems, Webb also wrote hymns and hymn translations and served as one of the editors of The Hymnary (1872).
The text has a wide scope, taking in all of Jesus’ incarnate life: his birth (st. 1); identification with human affairs (st. 2); daily ministry (st. 3); crucifixion (st. 4); resurrection, ascension, and gift of the Spirit (st. 5); the final stanza is a doxology (st. 6). Thus the text summarizes Christ's life in the same manner as the Apostles' Creed. A striking feature is the text's emphasis on the fact that Jesus accomplished all of this "for us"; "for us" occurs at least a dozen times! The redemptive work of Christ is very personally, very corporately applied.
Epiphany, especially later in the season; Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, and at many other times; the final stanza makes a good doxology for Epiphany, Lent, or the Easter season.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
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