Beneath The Cross of Jesus
March 12, 2019
Scottish hymn writer Elizabeth Clephane (1830 –1869) lost both her parents when she was very young. She was in frail health most of her life. In spite of her illnesses, Elizabeth joined her sister in caring for the poor and sick in their community. Both women gave away most of their earthly belongings. Miss Clephane composed this much-beloved Lenten hymn shortly before she died, but unfortunately didn’t live long enough to hear it put to music.
Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand, the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way, from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.
The hymn writer shows her knowledge of the Bible by using six powerful Biblical images in the first verse. Here are the images she uses and their likely references:
mighty rock – Isaiah 32:2
weary land – Psalm 63:1
home within the wilderness – Jeremiah 9:2
rest upon the way – Isaiah 28:12
noontide heat – Isaiah 4:6
burden of the day – Matthew 11:30
Upon the cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
The cross becomes more than just a symbol for the hymn writer. She sees Jesus there, dying for her. She experiences two contrasting wonders – the wonder of God’s love and her unworthiness. Elizabeth’s original text used the word “worthlessness,” which was later softened by hymn editors.
I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss, my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
Perhaps the hymn writer knows she is nearing the end of her earthly life, a life that has been challenging in many ways. The cross has become for her a symbol of rest and refuge, a place of coolness and shade after journeying through the desert of life. She is now happy to sit and bask in the light and glory of her Savior’s redeeming love – a love she does not deserve, a love that saves her from all earthly pain and hardship.
By: Sylvia Trimmier, FLPC Organist