1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!
3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing!
4 And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
and when from death I'm free, I'll sing on;
and when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
and through eternity I'll sing on!
Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #343
|First Line:||What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul|
|Title:||What Wondrous Love Is This|
|Source:||S. Mead's A General Selection, 1811; American folk hymn, ca. 1835|
|Refrain First Line:||What wondrous love is this|
Hymns have a way of weaving themselves into our own life stories. Laura de Jong shares about a worship service in which "What Wondrous Love" took on a new, more urgent meaning in her life:
Each year Calvin College hosts a Tenebrae service for students and local churches. I’ve had the privilege of helping to lead a number of these, but there is one service in particular that I will never forget. This was the second year that we had used the first two lines of “What Wondrous Love” as a refrain sung throughout the service after each Scripture reading. As we heard and reflected on the last hours of Christ, each time we sang this refrain it was more and more powerful. Near the very end of the service, as we sang this refrain during the “Shadow of the Crucifixion,” an older visitor from down the road slumped against his wife, having just suffered a fatal heart attack. The congregation sat in tears and prayer as campus safety administered CPR and a defibrillator, to no avail. In the midst of this reflection on Christ’s suffering for our sake, this man had gone home to be with his Savior. As I left that place, the last stanza of the hymn came to mind: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on.” Indeed, what wondrous love this is, that frees us from the fear of death, and causes us to lift our voices in wonder at the love of the Lamb.
The author of this text remains anonymous, but it’s known as a traditional American folk song, first published in 1811. The text has remained basically untouched since it was first made popular by the Sacred Harp shape singers in 1844. Some hymnals leave out the stanza: “When I was sinking down,” and others include a verse that repeats the first verse with the last two lines “That Christ should lay aside his crown for my soul –What wondrous love is this, O my soul!”
The tune WONDROUS LOVE was first set to this text in the second edition of Southern Harmony. Erik Routley describes this tune as “incomparably beautiful” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook). It hasn’t undergone many alterations since it first appeared, but there are some beautiful stylistic variations to look through:
You may also want to listen to the following for other ideas of how to use the hymn:
This is a commonly sung hymn for Lent, and is especially powerful during Good Friday services. Many churches, whether they have a Good Friday service or a Tenebrae (Shadows) Service, will open with this hymn. Also during this service, the first two lines work as a refrain to be sung after each Scripture reading as the worshiper journeys through and reflects on the last days and hours of Christ.
Another possibility is to again use the first two lines as a refrain sung throughout a reading of Psalm 22, a common Lenten psalm. This is outlined and explained in Sing! A New Creation #142.
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org