At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing

My thanks to Tim Shewmaker for highlighting this hymn over at Musical Catechesis.  I had never come across it before — the nature of its Eucharistic connections have no doubt eliminated it from the hymnals I more commonly use.  (It is, however, in Trinity Hymnalthe OPC believing in the “real/spiritual presence” of Christ at the Supper).

One could, I suppose, sing the lines
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast

understanding the connection between Blood-wine and Body-feast as symbolic or metaphoric, but it seems pretty clear that the intent of the writer is to reference transsubstantiation (although Lutherans [consubstantiationists] and Reformed advocates of the “real” or “spiritual” presence of Christ in the elements find the lines acceptable). As they stand, these lines would pretty much eliminate the hymn from churches which view the Supper as purely a memorial.

All the same, the hymn is worthy of reflection, and is generally well translated:

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King,
who hath washed us in the tide
flowing from his pierced side;
praise we him, whose love divine
gives his sacred Blood for wine,
gives his Body for the feast,
Christ the victim, Christ the priest.

Where the Paschal blood is poured,
death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, Paschal bread;
with sincerity and love
eat we manna from above.

Mighty victim from on high,
Pow’rs of hell beneath thee lie;
thou hast conquered in the fight,
thou hast brought us life and light:
now no more can death appall,
now no more the grave entrall;
thou hast opened paradise,
and in thee thy saints shall rise.

Easter triumph, Easter joy,
sin alone can this destroy;
from sin’s pow’r do thou set free
souls newborn, O Lord, in thee.
Hymns of glory and of praise,
Risen Lord, to thee we raise;
Holy Father, praise to thee,
with the Spirit, ever be.

Notice the striking points of repetition: “Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest”; “Paschal Victim, Paschal Bread”; “Easter triumph, Easter joy”. I love the startling contrast of “Mighty Victim” in v. 3, and the connection of “Risen Lord, to thee we raise” in v. 4.

I agree with Tim that the translation in v. 4 stumbles: “Easter triumph, Easter joy, Sin alone can this destroy.”  He suggests “This can sin alone destroy”, but his correction unfortunately has much the same ambiguity.  I think “This alone can sin destroy” might be a touch better.  If one keeps “destroy” as the last word in the line, it seems impossible to avoid some ambiguity.

Some sing the song to the tune ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR, but I prefer SALZBURG (HINTZE)

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