Maybe my mind is unravelling. On the first Sunday of Lent, our church sang “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”. I noted the author was Claudia Hernaman. This spurred me to investigate further. After several minutes of reading several sources about her, it all came back. She is one of the hymnists featured in Sisters in Song and I had completely forgotten about it. Yipes. How could I forget? Unlike Christmas or even Easter, Lent doesn’t have much in the way of hymns. Certainly the season isn’t quite as receptive to a celebratory tune. So, this is one of the few hymns for Lent.
To review what I wrote in my book: Claudia, born in 1838, was the daughter of an English priest of the Church of England. When still young, she wrote for church publications. She married J.W.D. Hernaman, also an Anglican priest. We know little about her, but she must have been well educated, for she translated Latin and German hymns as well as wrote hymns in English. Once she married, she found her calling in the religious education of children. She wrote children’s Christmas carols, Sunday School hymns, a Children’s hymn book and her translations were primarily for children. Altogether, she wrote or translated about 150 hymns. She died in Brussels, Belgium in 1898.
“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” first appeared in her Child’s Book of Praise, A Manual for Devotion in Simple Verse in 1873. It wasn’t included in other hymnals of that era, and certainly not in any hymnals for adults until the mid-twentieth century. By the 1970s, it was a standard in most hymn books in the United States and appears in 65 hymnals today. Though the hymn’s meter and tune may seem simple, I cannot envision it as a children’s hymn. The vocabulary seems too mature for a child, and the text relates to fasting and prayer, the struggle with Satan and sin, dying to self, and penitence. Only the last stanza of looking forward to Easter might strike a chord with the young. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t make the Victorian hit list when written, but after rediscovery as an adult hymn, it’s doing well.