Feb 202011
 

Third in a series featuring songs from my CD New Creation. For more information, read this link.

The Song

Behind the Song

Cornelius Elven (1791–1873) was a Baptist pastor in Suffolk, England, and a close friend of Charles H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon described him as “a faithful servant of the Lord, and an intensely fervent and sincere preacher, filled with the fire of the spirit.”

Perhaps the secret behind these qualities is seen in Elven’s best known hymn text, “With Broken Heart and Contrite Sigh.” (Here entitled “Kyrie”—more about that in a second.) Elven draws inspiration from several Scripture passages on repentance, notably Jesus’ parable of the Phraisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9­–14).

Jesus’ parable contrasts a self-righteous Pharisee, who commends himself to God on the basis of his religious works, with a corrupt tax-collector who humbly prays, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus declares that the tax-collector, not the Pharisee, is justified before God, because salvation is not based on our merits but on God’s mercy.

As a result, the tax-collector’s prayer has been incorporated into the church’s worship for thousands of years. The repeated chorus “Kyrie eleison / Christe eleison / Kyrie eleison” (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy) is a central part of the liturgy across nearly all Christian traditions. Elven’s hymn expands on this prayer beautifully, centering our hope for mercy on Christ’s saving work on the Cross.

My setting of the hymn is based on a Dorian modality, which allows a haunting shift between major and minor chords in the accompaniment. Its structure is antiphonal, with an echoing feel well suited to congregational worship.

Lyrics

Kyrie (With Broken Heart and Contrite Sigh)
Text by Cornelius Elven; music by Eric M. Pazdziora

With broken heart and contrite sigh,
A trembling sinner, Lord, I cry,
Thy pardoning grace is rich and free:
O God, be merciful to me.

I smite upon my troubled breast,
With deep and conscious guilt oppressed,
Christ and His Cross my only plea:
O God, be merciful to me.

Nor alms, nor deeds that I have done,
Can for a single sin atone;
To Calvary alone I flee:
O God, be merciful to me.

I turn my heart to seek Thy face,
Forgive me, Lord, by Thy good grace.
For me You died at Calvary:
For God is merciful to me.

Kyrie
Christe
Kyrie
Eleison.

And when, redeemed from sin and hell,
With all the ransomed throng I dwell,
My raptured song shall ever be:
God has been merciful to me.

 

Get the Song

Buy the MP3 on iTunes:

Kyrie (With Broken Heart and Contrite Sigh) - New Creation: Hymns of Wonder, Love, and Praise

Buy the album on CDbaby:

Chord Charts

Click here to get chord charts and lead sheets for the entire album.

If you would like this song in another arrangement, feel free to contact the composer. I’m always open to new commissions, projects, and ideas.

If you use this song in your worship or other performance and make a recording, I’d love to see a copy!

Music Copyright © 2010 Eric M. Pazdziora. All Rights Reserved.

  • I LOVE this one! I think it’s my favorite (so far!)

    • Thanks, Hillary! It’s one of our favorites too. Though there’s several more to come yet!

  • Such a haunting song. Thank you, darling, for sharing the debut with me. I’m so proud of you and your beautiful work!

    • Your voice is so beautiful on all these songs. Thank you for helping make my music come to life!

  • Merciful goodness, Eric–is that you and Carrie singing? That gave me chills.

    The Kyrie is a particularly dear part of the liturgy to me, an admission of need spoken with the confidence of love. I’d never heard Elven’s poem as far as I know, even in my Baptist days, but it reminds me of “Rock of Ages.”

    This is a beautiful arrangement. I don’t know my modes very well, but some of them stand out as particularly melodic, and the Dorian basis is simply lovely here.

    • Yes, Carrie and I are singing the duet / antiphon, then overdubbing with another singer or two for the choral arrangement. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

      Elven’s text is not particularly well-known these days, but I’m hoping to change that. 😉

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

  • I downloaded this song today-it is perfect for Lent! I agree with Hillary: my favorite so far 🙂

    • Delighted to hear it! I saw it on your blog today too. Thanks so very much for your support!

      • you are very welcome! Thanks for posting it in Youtube 🙂 Happy Friday to you and Carrie!

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