By Katie Hill
Think of an epic battle scene: the Greeks against the invading Persians at Thermopylae; William Wallace and his Scots army against the English at Falkirk; or the fictional battle for Minas Tirath in Lord of the Rings (if you think the movie was amazing, read the book!). While there were no formidable Spartans, fearsome blue-painted faces, or warrior elves to be found, there was another ferocious battle in which the more than two-to-one underdogs (the English) vanquished their opponents (the French). We’re talking about the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 in the region of France which we now know as Normandy. It is one of the most celebrated battles in all of English history.
NAME THAT TUNE
Like many battles, Agincourt was memorialized into song, known as the “Agincourt Carol,” or “Deo gratias.” If you were to give it a listen, you’d quickly realize it sounds just like the amazing swells of the organ accompaniment of the Higher Things For You 2022 conference hymn: “O Love, How Deep” (LSB 544). While historically there have been several different tunes used for this hymn, we relish this version used in our Lutheran Service Book. And can you blame us? The original ballad communicates an overwhelming sense of majesty, triumph (for England, specifically King Henry V) and gratitude toward God. While we’d love to give credit to a specific composer, his identity is unknown. Like “Thaxted,” the awe-inspiring music of Gustav Holst which creates the perfect setting for “We Praise You and Acknowledge You” (another conference favorite), this composition overwhelmingly bears the weight of the truths of Christ and Him crucified that we hold so dear.
DIVE INTO GREAT LYRICS
The majority of the lyrics come from a Latin poem found in an old German manuscript, and while some past scholars attributed this to 15th-century German monk Thomas à Kempis, all we know definitively is that the original 23-stanza work came out of the movement at that time known as Devotio Moderna (modern devotion), focused on living a life worthy of Christ.
The English translation comes to us from a 19th-century Anglican clergyman named Benjamin Webb who served in several parishes in England. Webb was part of the Oxford Movement, which sought to provide English translations of Greek, Latin, and German texts. We heartily approve of his efforts. The seventh stanza is a more recent add-on but we can’t imagine a better wrapup for this hymn than our love for the Trinity.
And so, in “O Love, How Deep” we discover the delightful merging of music and lyrics that positively burst forth with riches from the Scriptures.
Read the lyrics below and it will become obvious why this is our For You 2022 conference hymn:
“O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
Beyond all thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake!
He sent no angel to our race,
Of higher or of lower place,
But wore the robe of human frame,
And to this world Himself He came.
FOR US baptized, for us He bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore;
FOR US temptation sharp He knew;
FOR US the tempter overthrew.
FOR US He prayed; for us He taught;
FOR US His daily works He wrought;
By words and signs and actions thus
Still seeking not Himself, but us.
FOR US by wicked men betrayed,
FOR US, in crown of thorns arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death;
FOR US He gave His dying breath.
FOR US He rose from death again;
FOR US He went on high to reign;
FOR US He sent His Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.
All glory to our Lord and God
For love so deep, so high, so broad;
The Trinity whom we adore
Forever and forevermore.”
EXPLORE THE SCRIPTURES
Here are just a few of the Scriptures in which we see the inspiration for the lyrics laid out so clearly:
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:17-21).
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:6-9).
We encourage you to take some time to ponder the lyrics; more Scriptures will come to mind. In that same spirit, we hope you cherish each and every word as you sing along, whether it be at a Higher Things conference, at your home church, or at home at the top of your lungs! Feel free to sing joyfully along with the Higher Things conference hymn here.
So let’s circle back to the battles we opened up with. As legendary as they might have been, they all pale in comparison to the beyond-epic battle against sin, death, and the devil in which Christ won the greatest victory of all time. Our Savior, who was the picture of humility, an underdog from the world’s perspective, gloriously triumphed over evil through His death and resurrection. And He did this fiercely and lovingly for us. FOR YOU.
Katie Hill is the managing editor at Higher Things. She enjoys fostering and fine-tuning the writing of authors who deliver the sweetness of the Gospel to Higher Things readers and beyond. A Lutheran convert for 17 years now, Katie has been working for HT in some capacity for nearly that same amount of time. She relishes life in a small town in northern Arizona with her husband, Jeff, and five children, four of whom have left the nest.