Hymn of the Week

by Jeff Mowery

May Jesus Christ Be Praised (When Morning Gilds The Skies)


When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer,
To Jesus I repair;
May Jesus Christ be praised!


Does sadness fill my mind?
A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss?
My comfort still is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!


When sleep her balm denies,
My silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast:
May Jesus Christ be praised!


The night becomes as day
When from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The pow’rs of darkness fear
When this sweet chant they hear:
May Jesus Christ be praised!


In heav’n’s eternal bliss
The loveliest strain is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth, and sea, and sky
From depth to height reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!


Be this, while life is mine,
My song of love divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this eternal song
Through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!


The 1800’s was a tremendous period of original hymn writing in the Church.  Following the great hymns of men like Isaac Watts and William Cowper, many men and women began writing great songs of faith.  There was also a movement to translate older hymns that had originally been written in Greek, Latin, or even German.  This week’s hymn is an example of that.  Edward Casewell was part of the Oxford Movement in England which emphasized a translation of songs into English from other cultures and languages.  This particular song, originally written by Katholisches Gesangbuch, was translated by Casewell in the mid 1800’s.  Mr. Casewell eventually expanded the hymn to include 28….yes 28 verses.  I have included only 6 above, but can you imagine the kinds of looks in a congregation if the music minister decided to sing 28 verses to a song?  If you are interested in reading a few more verses, you can find them at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/h/e/whenmgts.htm.
One of the things I like about this song is how beautiful Mr. Casewell translated the words.  I am sure it took much time to translate the words in a way that was rhythmic and poetic, but also in a way that the true meaning didn’t get lost in the translation.  This song is a song about praise.  When to praise.  Why to praise.  And ultimately, Who to praise.  I pray today that you will pause, no matter the circumstance you find yourself in, and praise the Lord.  He is truly worthy of our praise.
Couple of comments on the lyrics:
  • “When morning gilds the skies” – I think this song is often known by these first few words because of the imagery that these 5 little words paint in one’s mind.  Can you imagine the sun coming over the horizon in the morning?  How it’s golden beams burst through the clouds, inspire us and remind us of new life?  But to “gild” also has another meaning.  Dictionary.com defines gild as “to give a bright, pleasing, or specious aspect to.”  Isn’t that what the Son does for us?  His light and His love give life brightness.  He gives life meaning.  His grace satisfies and pleases us.  And like the sun, God’s only Son is consistent and faithful in His regular showering us with sunshine in our soul.
  • “Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find.”  When reading this verse, I was reminded of one of my favorite hymns – What a friend we have in Jesus.  In the last verse of that song, the author reminds us that there is one place to find solace – “Thou wilt find a solace there.”  The “there” is the place of prayer.  The place of praise.  The place where we meet our dearest and best friend – the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you have sadness today, can I encourage you take that sadness to the Lord in prayer?  He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and can cheer your saddened soul.  A solace there you will find.
  • “When sleep her balm denies” – Isn’t it amazing what a lack of sleep can do?  Sleep is truly a gift from God.  When we don’t have that balm that comes from sleep, our bodies get worn out.  Our minds get exhausted.  Our thoughts race and we wonder “will I ever sleep again?”  I like the author’s cure for lack of sleep.  It is not counting sheep.  It is not reading a boring 500 page book.  True rest for the soul comes from praising the Lord.  From acknowledging His control and giving Him our cares, our concerns, and our burdens.  We relinquish our “control” over to Him, and do what we ultimately were made to do – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.


We recently had the opportunity to keep the daughters of close friends of ours while they were out of town.  One of their daughters was recently adopted from China.  Yana is 7 years old, but came to America not knowing any English at all.  Over the past several months, she has picked up lots of English words and after keeping her for a couple of days, I was convinced she understood a lot more than she could verbalize.  There were times, however, where my words were “lost in the translation.”  Where I could not communicate to her clearly and where she didn’t understand what I was saying.  I needed an interpreter. 


In our spiritual walk, I believe there are times when we need an “interpreter.”  Times where we need the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts through the words found in Scripture.  Times where we need the Holy Spirit to “translate” for us when we just don’t understand.  This hymn is a translation.  It started out in German and has been translated to English.  But the words of this song will be meaningless to us without the power of the Holy Spirit ministering through these words to us. 


I pray today that as you read these words that you will allow the Lord to speak to you.  To speak to your heart clearly.  To let the words of this 300 year old song encourage you through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And after reading these words, I pray that you can join with the author and say “May Jesus Christ be praised!” for caring enough about you and about me, and knowing where I am to speak to my heart directly today. 

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