Hymn Study: Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed (At the Cross)

I always learn something new when I start putting together these studies and today was no exception. As I sat down to find out more about this history of the song the refrain kept playing in my mind. However, when I first found it on hymnary, the refrain wasn’t there and I thought somehow I was mixing up two songs.  However, a bit more research showed that the verses were originally penned by Issac Watts in 1707 without the now popular refrain. The refrain was added in 1885 by Ralph Hudson who also changed the tune.  The song goes by both Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed and At the Cross.

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Alas, and Did my Savior Bleed

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

When Issac Watts wrote this song, it was viewed as sinful because it did not take its lyrics straight from scripture. However, he believed that just as we can pray using our own words, we should be able to sing using our own words.

As we celebrate Easter this week, this song can be a helpful reminder of the power of the cross. I would encourage you to talk about the meaning behind this song and how Jesus’s death on the cross changes our eternity. The link on hymnary will help you with the many scripture references that accompany this song.  There are many craft projects and art lessons that you can use as a hands-on component to this study. You can gather sticks from your yard and fashion them into a small cross, you can spend some time talking as a family about ways you can share Christ’s love this Easter even while we are apart from others, and here are a few free art lessons you can use this Easter week. The rainbow cross seems to really connect with this song and seeing the light at the cross.

This Easter, as we deal with a pandemic, many of us are facing a lot of changes in our normal Easter routine. It can be challenging to realize that we cannot visit with family, attend our sunrise services, or even go into the church building on Easter Sunday.  However, I pray that we all remember that the church is not a building and we can worship and celebrate our Lord and Savior from wherever we are. Events may be canceled but Easter cannot be canceled. May this song bless you and your family as you celebrate together this year.

Hymn Study Resources:

Hymn Story

Sheet Music and Information (without refrain)

Gaither Vocal Band

Red Mountain Church

Video with Lyrics

Congregational singing

Contemporary Worship

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Hymn Study Fact Sheet


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