One of the most beautiful hymns of all time is “Fairest Lord Jesus.” And while it achieved a prominent place in American hymnody over the last 150+ years, in my estimation it achieved an even greater place of prominence in the Choral Repertoire under a different title, “Beautiful Savior,” thanks to the work of F. Melius Christiansen and the choirs of St. Olaf College. To this day, rarely a concert goes by with St. Olaf, one of America’s most talented ensembles, where this work is not performed as the “curtain call.” Beautiful…simple…yet the message of the hymn shines forth. And it shines forth through a verse that has been left out in virtually every Restoration hymnal, with the exception of Boyd and McCann’s Great Songs of the Church, Revised (1986).
The tune is called the Crusader’s Hymn and it first appeared in our hymn form most often sung today in the 1842 Schlesische Volkslieder. The tune’s origin is in question and has been said to have been sung as early as the 12th century by German crusaders, moving treacherously through the Holy Land. Others say it was a hymn used by the followers of John Hus or other Moravians from the 1620’s (Osbeck/Julian). The fourth verse, the one most often omitted and the subject of this post, was translated by Joseph A. Seiss. It points to the dual nature of Jesus and the eternal praise that he is due…
“Beautiful Savior, Lord of the Nations!
Son of God, and Son of Man.
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore, be Thine!”