Sunday, 15 August 2010


My friend and comrade in arms Joanna Bogle has reminded me of one of the simplest and yet most pleasant parts of John Henry Newman's legacy: his glorious hymns.
Over the next few days I shall be posting some of these hymns with a little of my own thoughts on them: I hope you will join in discussing them. First off, then, is 'Praise to the Holiest in the Height'.
The three things that strike me most immediately about this hymn, apart from its general beauty, are:
It recalls in my mind that haunting phrase in the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil 'O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that won for us so great a redeemer'. I was thurifer, standing by the cantor at the Vigil this year and those words moved me almost to tears (though not enough to put out a fuming thurible, thankfully).
Of course there is a rather complex argument about whether Christ would have come without the fall of Adam, which I think I will leave. Suffice it to say Newman catches very well the irony of the situation, painful and yet glorious at the same time: 'O wisest love! that flesh and blood which did in Adam fail...should strive and should prevail'. Wonderful stuff!
Secondly, the words 'in the garden secretly and on the cross on high' struck a chord with me: they remind us that carrying the cross, for Christians, must contain both public and private sorrow, just as Our Lord's passion did. An important message, that one.
Thirdly, and this may sound rather useless, but I think Ven. JHN delivers most beautifully of all an overarching message that God is supremely wise, and that his love and his Incarnation and his Passion are all an act of wisdom - not just of an sentimental love for humanity, but out of a plan for all time.

What do you think?
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be
In all
His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.

O loving
of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the
And to the rescue came.

O wisest
love! that flesh and blood,
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh
against the foe,
strive and should prevail.

And that a
higher gift than grace
flesh and blood refine,
God’s Presence
and His very Self,
And Essence
all divine.

O generous love! that
He, who smote,
In Man for man the
The double agony in Man
For man should

And in the
garden secretly,
on the Cross on high,
Should teach His brethren,
and inspire
suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the
And in
the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all
His ways.

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