O Christ the Healer
O Christ, the healer, we have come To
pray for health, to plead for friends.
How can we fail to be restored, When
reached by love that never ends?
From every ailment flesh endures
Our bodies clamour to be freed;
Yet in our hearts we would confess That
wholeness is our deepest need.
How strong, O Lord, are our desires,
How weak our knowledge of ourselves!
Release in us those healing truths
Unconscious pride resists or shelves.
In conflicts that destroy our health,
We diagnose the world’s disease; Our
common life declares our ills: Is there
no cure, O Christ, for these?
Grant that we all, made one in faith,
In your community may find
The wholeness that, enriching us,
Shall reach the whole of humankind.
Words: Fred Prat Green, 1967
Music: ERHALT UNS HERR, Geistliche Lieder
(klug), 1543; harm. By J. S. Bach, 1725
On the third Sunday of Epiphany (January 26, 2014), a recommended Gospel passage for reading is Matthew 4:12-23. The passage concludes with a summary of Jesus’ public ministry – teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and healing the sick (v.23). Focusing on Jesus’ healing ministry, let us study UMH 265, “O Christ the Healer”.
This hymn was inspired by deliberations on the topic of health and healing. The discussion transpired within a committee preparing for the collection British Methodist Hymns and Songs (1969).
The committee studied earlier hymns about healing and found such texts were “reticent to mention mental health”.1 In response to the discussion, the Rev Fred Pratt Green (2 Sep 1903 – 22 Oct 2000), a Methodist pastor, wrote this hymn overnight.
The Rev Green is generally considered to be the leader of the “hymn explosion” that began in the 1960s. His hymns appear more often than those of any other 20th Century hymn-writer in English-language hymnals published in North America since 1975.2 The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH) contains 15 original hymns and two translations by the Rev Green.
We often receive prayer requests for healing of a sick family member, colleague or friend through emails, texts, Twitter, or Facebook. Our usual response is: “I will pray for you.” The first stanza of this hymn reflects our faith that Jesus Christ, the great Physician, comforts and heals with His love.
In the second stanza, the author emphasises the need to be made whole beyond physical healing.
“…yet in our hearts we would confess that wholeness is our deepest need.”
Our bodies yearn to be free of physical ailments, but we know in our hearts that healing does not stop there – it is wholeness that is desired. Note the use of the word “confess”, seeming to indicate that the desire for a deeper healing is hardly noticed, consciously hidden or sheepishly expressed.
The third stanza expresses the strength of our desires, contrasted with the frailty of our self-knowledge. As a result, the truths that might bring healing in us may be suppressed by our subconscious pride. Thus we cry out to God to release these truths in us, as it is beyond our ability to recognise them on our own.
Personal conflicts that destroy our health symbolise the bigger ailments of society. This commonality drives us to consciousness, asking the Lord if there ever is a cure.
The hymn ends with a plea that we become one in faith, and as a community, find and be enriched by that wholeness of healing, subsequently radiating it to the rest of humankind.
1 “History of Hymns: Hymn celebrates both physical, mental healing”, The United Methodist Reporter, accessed December 11, 2013. http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2013/01/23/ history-of-hymns-hymn-celebrates-both-physical-mental-healing/
Picture by iko/Bigstock.com
Judith Mosomos is Lecturer in Church Music at the Methodist School of Music and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.