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Lenten Hymns for the Season of Lent

You might not know this (I certainly didn’t!) but the season of Lent has its very own songs! Lenten hymns are very different from the hymns of the other seasons of the liturgical year. They play a crucial role in the observance of Lent and are characterized by their solemn and reflective nature.

Lenten hymns, like Advent hymns, have their own particular beauty and set the tone for the season. Lenten hymns embody a more penitential and introspective mood, mirroring the season's themes of repentance, introspection, and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus. They explore themes of human sinfulness, mercy, redemption, and the suffering of Christ.

One of the most famous Lenten songs is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The hymn’s poignant lyrics focus on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, inviting us to contemplate the immense love and suffering embodied in this act. Written by Isaac Watts in 1707, it is the first known hymn to be written in the first person, introducing a personal religious experience rather than a dry hymn about doctrine. At the time, the music during the church service was congregational of the Psalms. This hymn introduced a deeply personal worship experience with Christians given the opportunity to express their gratitude to their Savior.

Consider the first verse -

When I survey the wondrous cross
where the young Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Isn't it incredible? Those lines absolutely kill me! To hear Jesus called the "young Prince of Glory" is so, so touching.

The hymn is so moving, especially the final verse which triumphantly proclaims -

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

It's a masterpiece! You have to listen to it!

Another favorite Lenten hymn, is “My Song Is Love Unknown." It is a haunting hymn pondering the life of Jesus, all that he did for us, and how we in turn treated him. Here are some of my favorite stanzas -

My song is love unknown–
my Savior’s love to me;
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I, that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run;
He gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
themselves displease,
and 'gainst Him rise.

Here might I stay and sing–
no story so divine!
Never was love, dear King,
never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

I have never been able to sing that last stanza without crying. "This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise, I all my days could gladly spend." It's so moving!

If you'd like to experience the hymns of Lent, I've created a traditional playlist for you. I think you will be blown away by them! I hope they are a blessing to you and your family!

Click the button to hear my playlist of traditional Lenten hymns.

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