Following the Stations of the Cross with the Sacred Harp

Jesus on cross

The Stations of the Cross are used in Catholic and Anglican faith traditions as an aid to worship and meditation on the passion and death of Jesus. Traditionally, the stations are a series of pictures or images of scenes during the last hours of Jesus's life. Many of the texts found in The Sacred Harp concern the death and sufferings of Jesus, and of the pain and suffering of human life, and so it is perhaps useful to use texts and tunes from The Sacred Harp as "stations" in remembrance of Christ.

Below is a song of invitation (Beach Spring) and texts and tunes for the fourteen traditional stations of the cross. Texts dealing with the difficulty of life are used for the "three falls" of Jesus. David's Lamentation is used for the meeting of Christ with Mary; the idea here is to consider Mary lamenting over what will happen to her son. The extra-biblical story of Veronica, who wiped the face of Jesus as he bore the cross, is represented by Confidence, whose text in the Sacred Harp considers what happens with Christ hides his face.

Many of these texts and tunes are doleful and depressing, and I have tried to intersperse them with texts and tunes with words of hope and promise; for after Good Friday comes Easter morning. Thus, the Easter Anthem is given as a finale--although this can be omitted when centering on the passion of Christ. "Can you not wait one hour with me?"

Texts and tunes are from the Denson 1991 revision of the Sacred Harp. Music links are to Terre Shill's Sacred Harp.mus site. If you find any errors or have any comments, please send them to me at will-dot-fitzgerald-at-pobox-dot-com. Photo above by kapeka; used by permission.


81t Beach Spring (tune)

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow'r.
He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream,
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you,
'Tis the Spirit's rising beam.

Agonizing in the garden,
Lo! your Master prostrate lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him,
Hear Him cry before He dies;
"It is finished!"
Sinners will this not suffice?

Lo! th'incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood;
Venture to Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.

The Stations

  1. Christ condemned to death

    547 Granville (tune)

    Remember, Lord, our mortal state;
    How frail our lives! how short the date!
    Where is the man that draws his breath,
    Safe from disease, secure from death?

    Lord, while we see whole nations die,
    Our flesh and sense repine and cry;
    Must death forever rage and reign?
    Or hast Thou made mankind in vain?

  2. The cross is laid upon Jesus

    38b Windham (tune)

    Broad is the road that leads to death
    And thousands walk together there;
    But wisdom shows a narrow path,
    With here and there a traveler.

    "Deny thyself, and take thy cross,"
    Is the Redeemer's great command;
    Nature must count her gold but dross,
    If she would gain this heav'nly land.

    Lord, let not all my hopes be vain,
    Create my heart entirely new,
    Which hypocrites could ne'er attain,
    Which false apostates never knew.

  3. Jesus falls

    47b Idumea (tune)

    And am I born to die?
    To lay this body down!
    And must my trembling spirit fly
    Into a world unknown?

    A land of deepest shade,
    Unpierced by human thought;
    The dreary regions of the dead,
    Where all things are forgot!

  4. Jesus meets his mother

    268 David's Lamentation (tune):

    David the king was grieved and moved
    He went to his chamber, and wept;
    And as he went he wept, and said,
    "Oh my son! Would to God I had died
    For thee, Oh Absalom, my son."

  5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross

    349 A Cross for Me (tune) or the tune of Ortonville or other Common Meter tunes

    Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
    And all the world go free?
    No, there's a cross for ev'ryone,
    And there's a cross for me.

    The consecrated cross I'll bear
    Till death shall set me free;
    And then go home my crown to wear,
    For there's a crown for me.

  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

    270 Confidence (tune)

    Away, my unbelieving fear;
    Fear shall in me no more have place;
    My Savior doth not yet appear;
    He hides the brightness of His face;
    But shall I therefore let Him go,
    And basely to the tempter yield?
    No, in the strength of Jesus, no!
    I never will give up my shield.

  7. Jesus falls again

    147t Kedron (tune)

    Thou Man of grief, remember me,
    Thou never canst Thyself forget.
    Thy last expiring agony,
    Thy fainting pangs and bloody sweat.

    Father, if I may call Thee so,
    Regard my fearful heart’s desire;
    Remove this load of guilty woe,
    Nor let me in my sins expire!

    I tremble, lest the wrath divine,
    Which bruises now my wretched soul,
    Should bruise this wretched soul of mine,
    Long as eternal ages roll.

  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

    68t Salem (tune)
    163t Morning (tune)

    He dies, the friend of sinners dies!
    Lo Salem's daughters weep around;
    A solemn darkness veils the skies,
    A sudden trembling shakes the ground.

  9. Jesus falls a third time

    235 Long Sought Home (tune)

    Jerusalem! my happy home!
    Oh, how I long for thee!
    When will my sorrows have an end?
    Thy joys when shall I see?

    Home, sweet home, my long-sought home,
    My home in heav'n above.

    My friends, I bid you all adieu;
    I leave you in God's care;
    And if I here no more see you,
    Go on; I'll meet you there.

  10. Christ is stripped of His garments

    209 Evening Shade (tune)

    The day is past and gone,
    The evening shades appear;
    Oh may we all remember well,
    The night of death is near.

    We lay our garments by,
    Upon our beds to rest:
    So death will soon disrobe us all,
    Of what we here possess.

  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

    300 Calvary (tune)

    My thoughts, that often mount the skies,
    Go, search the world beneath,
    Where nature all in ruin lies,
    And owns, her sovereign -- Death!

  12. Jesus dies

    197 Weeping Savior (tune)

    Alas and did my Savior bleed?
    And did my Sov’reign die!
    Would He devote that sacred head
    For such a worm as I?

    Oh, come, sinner, you will hear
    The Savior say, “Weep not for me,”
    See the Savior on the cross!
    Oh, sinner, hear Him cry,
    “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani.”

  13. Jesus's body is taken down from the cross

    365 Southwell (tune)

    'Tis finished, The Redeemer said,
    And meekly bowed His dying head.
    While we the sentence scan,
    Come sinners, and observe the word,
    Behold the conquest of the Lord,
    Complete for sinful man.
  14. Jesus body is laid in the tomb

    159 Wondrous Love (tune)

    What wondrous love is this!
    Oh, my soul, oh my soul!
    That caused the Lord of bliss
    To bear the dreadful curse
    For my soul?

    When I was sinking down,
    Sinking down, Sinking down,
    Beneath God's righteous frown
    Christ laid aside His crown
    For my soul.

Easter Morning

236 Easter Anthem (tune)

The Lord is ris'n indeed! Hallelujah!
Now is Christ risen from the dead,
And become the first fruits of them that slept.
Hallelujah, and did He rise? did He rise?
Hear it ye nations! hear it, Oh ye dead!
He rose, He burst the bars of death
And triumphed o'er the grave.
Then I rose, then first humanity
Triumphant passed the crystal ports of light
And seized eternal youth.
Man, all immortal hail,
Hail heaven, all lavish of strange gifts to man,
Thine's all the glory,
Man's the boundless bliss.

Will Fitzgerald, Lent, 2006. Edited, Lent, 2009.