Fairest Lord Jesus
Generally sung to “Crusader’s March” This tune is sometimes known as St. Elizabeth. Composer of tune unknown. It first appeared in Schlesische Volkslieder (Sicilian Folk Songs) in 1842.
Here is a link for a YouTube recording:
“Crusader’s March” http://youtu.be/XW5bkIUQqZc
“Schonster Herr Jesu” http://youtu.be/zxC2VlKjZC4 (a less commonly used tune)
1 Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.
2 Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.
3 Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.
4 Beautiful Savior!
Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
now and forevermore be thine.
The first thing I would like to do, in this hyper-politically correct era, is deal with the title of the tune most commonly associated with this wonderful text. It is not, as the title might suggest, something which was sung by the crusaders on their way to liberate Israel. The earliest evidence of the tune is from the Schlesische Volkslieder (Sicilian Folk Songs) which was published in 1842. Here the tune was known as: “Schönster Herr Jesu” (Most beautiful Lord Jesus). Franz Liszt used the tune in his oratorio “The Legend of St. Elizabeth” (1862) for the Crusader’s March. This is where the names “St. Elizabeth” and “Crusader’s March” originated.
As a song of adoration “Fairest Lord Jesus” is second to none. This hymn uses the physical world, and all of its beauty to set the beauty of the Lord Jesus as being even greater.
Here are some of the Scriptural references from the first stanza:
Psalm 27:4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
Mark 9:3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
John 5:23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which hath sent him.
These poetic expressions of the beauty of Christ are developed and expanded through the balance of the hymn.
There is an important development with the 4th and 5th lines of each stanza. 1) Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, 2) Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer 3) Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer and finally 4) Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be thine. The song moves from our reactions towards the Son to ever more powerful descriptions of Jesus, each one building upon the previous. In the final stanza the initial: “O thou of God and man the Son,” becomes: “Son of God and Son of Man!” And with this the declaration that all glory and honor, praise and adoration, are forever Jesus’.