Text: 17th century Spanish hymn
Music: Henry J. Gauntlett (1805-1876)
Tune name: ST. FULBERT
There was a long-standing tradition that the Spanish poem translated in this hymn was written by St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). But as there is no positive evidence for this claim, the hymn is today regarded as from an unknown source.
The text is from the point-of-view of an individual believer (rather than the Church as a community of faith) and expresses a simple sentiment: I love Christ because he loved me — to the point of an agonizing death. Christ’s loving sacrifice is all the more wonderful because he died for his enemies. I love Christ because he is “my God and my eternal King.”
1. My God, I love thee; not because I hope for heav’n thereby,
nor yet for fear that loving not I might forever die;
2. But for that thou didst all mankind upon the cross embrace;
for us didst bear the nails and spear, and manifold disgrace;
3. And griefs and torments numberless, and sweat of agony;
e’en death itself, and all for man, who was thine enemy.
4. Then why, most loving Jesus Christ, should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heav’n, nor any fear of hell;
5. Not with the hope of gaining aught, nor seeking a reward,
but as thyself hast loved me, O ever-loving Lord!
6. E’en so I love thee, and will love, and in thy praise will sing,
solely because thou art my God and my eternal King!
Edward Caswall (1814-1878) translated this hymn and seven others in our Hymnal, including “Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding, “O saving Victim, opening wide,” “Glory be to Jesus,” and “Jesus, the very thought of thee.” The son of an Anglican vicar, Caswell attended Oxford before his ordination to the priesthood in 1839. In 1847 he became a Roman Catholic. Two years later, he published Lyra Catholica, a collection of translated hymns. Among his original work not in our Hymnal is the Christmas hymn “See, amid the winter snow.”
The composer of this hymn tune, Henry Gauntlett, was was a renowned organist and organ designer. Among his other hymn tunes is IRBY, to which is traditionally sung “Once in Royal David’s City.” Among his admirers was Felix Mendelssohn, who once wrote of him: “I know but very few of his countrymen or mine whose masterly performance on the organ, whose skill in writing, and whose perfect knowledge of musical literature of ancient and modern times may be compared to his.”
The tune’s name comes from its association with the hymn “Chorus novae Jerusalem,” by St. Fulbert of Chartres.
Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.