Lenten Reflection of Joy

Vince Treadway, ACM Founder

One of my favorite choral works is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ (1872-1958) Five Mystical Songs. The poetry is by George Herbert (1593-1633), and this particular set of five poems captures much of the mystery and joy of this season. My favorite setting is of the third poem, Love Bade Me Welcome. In this piece Vaughan Williams makes the sorrow, the drawing back, the doubting, and finally the welcoming of the Lord come alive with almost magical word painting

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.
A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

I am humbled and awed by the unspeakable gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who drew near to me, took my hand, bore the blame, and invited me to “sit down and taste” and see that the Lord is good. I encourage you all to reflect on this beautiful text, and enjoy this wonderful choral work as you meditate on the sacrificial gift of our Lord this Lenten season.