On My Heart Imprint Your Image
Message of a Lenten Hymn
On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessèd Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!
– Thomas Hansen Kingo, tr. Peer O. Strømme, LSB 422
When Thomas Kingo wrote this hymn around 1689, he probably didn’t predict that it would still be in our hymnal over 330 years later. Still, if he were to show up at Trinity today and open the hymnal to find his hymn, he might be disappointed. Kingo’s original hymn had 29 stanzas, and we have forgotten 28 of them, only keeping the center stanza (st. 15) in our repertoire.
The complete hymn, written in Danish, “invites people to ponder Christ’s suffering for the sin of the world, to follow on the way to the cross, to see ‘God’s unspotted Lamb… lifted on the cursed tree.’” In the 14th stanza, preceding “On My Heart Imprint Your Image,” Kingo recalls the inscription placed by Pilate on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Following those words, we sing in this stanza of another inscription, this time on our own hearts.
The phrase about “life’s riches, cares, and pleasures” takes inspiration from the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23): “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who heard the word and understands it” (Matthew 13:22-23).
The hymn is centered on Christ and his crucifixion, reminding us that our boasting is only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14) and that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
–adapted from Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns