O Sacred Head

One of my most vivid childhood memories is from Good Friday, circa 1988.

Andreas Pavias Icon of the Crucifixion, second half of 15th century egg tempera and gold on wood overall: 83.5 × 59 cm, National Gallery, Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens

I remember sitting in church with my family for the Good Friday service. The service is quiet and simple, consisting of just a few parts: The Liturgy of the Word, The Adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion. It is simple, stark, and deeply moving. And rather long.

During the Liturgy of the Word, St. John’s Passion is normally read from start to finish with lectors taking different parts. This particular year, our church proclaimed the long reading in sections. Interspersed between the passages, the choir sang a verse from the hymn “O Sacred Head Surrounded”.

Often restless during this long service, I remember being absolutely captivated by this a capella rendition. Hauntingly beautiful, this hymn is one of my favorites. Amazingly, music has the power to sear a moment from childhood into memory.

Here is another interpretation by the Notre Dame Bronze Handbell Ensemble.

A little comfort on this heartbreaking but very Good Friday.

2 thoughts on “O Sacred Head

  1. Thank you. So beautiful. It was about a year ago that we were able to see Greta perform with the handbell choir at Notre Dame! 💐👏 Beautiful!


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