A perspective is a view or outlook. One of the first lessons learned in drawing or painting is perspective. The artist is trained to see the relationship of all things and render three-dimensional vistas into a two-dimensional representation.
Perspective is good not only for the artist, but for all. Sometimes we need perspective. We need to see the relationship of all things. We need to realize that we only see a part of the whole. Perspective makes us pay attention to the details that seem troublesome when isolated, but make sense when seen in relationship to other things.
Perspective in worship is good. It saves us from tendencies and extremes. We have a tendency to focus on old songs and new songs, but do we ever focus on “Christ-songs?” Here’s some perspective: what is old was once new; what is new will one day be old. However, Christ is still Christ – always has been and always will be.
The hymn “O Sacred Head” has not always been in the form it is now. It changed over the ages. It originated as a Latin poem that focused on the different parts of Christ’s body as he was crucified. Eventually, the stanzas concerning the head and face of Christ were translated and recomposed into the English hymn that has been around since the 18th century, but that old hymn is an innovation of a much older poem, Salve Mundi Salutare.
The writer of this poem recognized that the cross gives us perspective. The poet believed that paying attention to the details of the crucifixion would wake us up to the futility of violence in our world. The cross corrects our perspective that our reliance on our strength and our power to control all things is necessary. Instead we see that it only leads to death. A cross-focused perspective opens our eyes to the truth that God’s love can bring life out of death.