The Full, Final Sacrifice

One of my favourite 20th Century English anthems is Gerald Finzi’s Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice (Here’s a Spotify link, and here’s a YouTube link, both performed by the outstanding choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge). I have sung it a few times and listened to it many times more. But, in a way that is very typical of many choral singers, I have only paid partial attention to the words.

Well, for slightly complicated reasons, I decided to delve into the words recently. And I found out that Finzi took as his text selected (and re-arranged) extracts from a long paraphrase of Thomas Aquinas’ “Lauda Sion Salvatorem”, as well as from a paraphrase of Aquinas’ “Adoro Te” by the 17th century English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649).

What a find!

Crashaw was son of a noted puritan theologian, but ended up converting to Catholicism. We can only assume that “Lauda Sion” comes from the latter period.

I offer a longer extract from Crashaw, which I’m hoping might be included in a forthcoming collection of hymns, set to a completely new tune. More on that project another time.

So the life-food of angells then
Bow’d to the lowly mouths of men!
The children’s Bread, the Bridegroom’s Wine;
Not to be cast to dogges, or swine.

Lo, the full, finall Sacrifice
On which all figures fix’t their eyes:
The ransom’d Isack, and his ramme;
The manna, and the paschal lamb.

Iesv Master, iust and true!
Our food, and faithfull Shephard too!
O by Thy self vouchsafe to keep,
As with Thy selfe Thou feed’st Thy sheep.

O let that loue which thus makes Thee
Mix with our low mortality,
Lift our lean soules, and sett vs vp
Con-victors of Thine Own full cup,
Coheirs of saints. That so all may
Drink the same wine; and the same way:
Nor change the pastvre, but the place,
To feed of Thee, in Thine Own face. Amen.


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