Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Old Rugged Cross

The Old Rugged Cross is a popular Christian song written in 1913 by the evangelist and song-leader George Bennard (1873-1958). First written for singing at summer campground meetings, several camps in both upper-Michigan and Wisconsin have a good-natured rivalry regarding the place where this classic Christian hymn was first sung. Often called a hymn, The Old Rugged Cross actually uses more of a popular song form; it has, for example, a verse/chorus pattern. [From Wiki]


At St Mungo’s this month at the midday Mass, Fr Augustine has been asking us to sing a couple of verses of The Old Rugged Cross. Now I can’t help but raise a smile at this, not because of the song but because of its associations. In the early 1990s when my father’s friends started to die off, at their funerals it became popular to ask a nice old chap who was a club turn, popular in the working men’s and catholic men’s clubs to sing The Old Rugged Cross at communion. To me he sounded like a pub singer and it was a bit of a liturgical abuse (I think the priest was a bit lax) but I can’t help but smile when I hear it.Perhaps it brings out the pub singer in me as I belt it out. I hope it doesn't put the other Mass-goers off.

It is traditionally associated with evangelical protestantism, but I can’t see an unorthodox sentiment in it (compared with some heretical hymns, I could mention). An impressive array of singers have sung it Al Green, , Elvis Presley, , Jimmy Reeves, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson.
I remember best the Jim Reeves version).

In our present troubles bearing in mind the fact that the Koran denies that Jesus was indeed crucified. These sentiments should perhaps be at the forfront of our minds in prayer:


To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.


O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
Refrain

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
Refrain

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

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