St. Augustine gets the credit for the aphorism "to sing is to pray twice" or, if you prefer the orignal Latin, qui cantat bis orat. I have a hard time separating my prayer from song, so perhaps it's not surprising that I've found a spiritual home with his monastic order. Each morning the Augustinians monks I pray with start their prayer with a sacred song, and end it with the words "through the cross you brought joy to the world". This traditional hymn enfolds that same tension between joy and sacrifice.
What Wonderous Love is This appears to have been originally collected from Appalachia in the early 19th century by William Walker. It is found in his 1835 book The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Walker was a singing master in the shape note tradition. Traveling masters trained communities sing and to read music by marking each note with a different shape, to make the music easier for novices to follow.
This version, by Blue Highway is a cappella, as shape songs traditionally should be, with a short instrumental introduction. The final verse is sung as a round with layers of harmony that reach way down into my soul.
The words can be found in the Lutheran Hymnal. Another version of the lyrics (and the organ tune) can be found at the Oremus Hymnal. You can get the album at iTunes or Amazon!
Please note: Here is a link to the CD here and at the RGBP Store.