My last post was a year ago, and it included the text of my own hymn for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, “In Glory Shone the Holy One.” I have prepared a bulletin insert of the hymn for use in my own congregation this weekend, though I have set the text to the tune “Wo Gott zum Haus,” using the Setting in LSB. This tune and its setting are familiar to congregation members and organists alike, and it has the benefit of being an authentic composition in the Lutheran chorale tradition. Here is the insert:
I have experimented with these 2-sided printable bulletin inserts, and I have verified that inserts formatted like this one can be successfully printed from an iPhone using Apple’s built-in AirPrint. Printing from a desktop machine should present no problems. Just make sure the quality is set to 600 dpi. The insert can be printed 2-sided (flipped on short edge), then sliced in half.
If you have occasion to use the hymn, what do you think? Could the text be improved? What could I do to make printable resources here more usable?
Given the dearth of appropriate hymns for the Transfiguration of Our Lord (it is, after all, rather a recent observance), I was moved to write a hymn for the occasion a few years ago. The hymn was never sung anywhere, aside from my own car/office, nor was the text ever made public, as far as I can remember. It has remained hidden in my notes, but after reviewing it again I think it’s time to include it here. Because it is not a part of the authentic Lutheran chorale tradition, it will, like my other hymn, remain on the blog rather than getting its own page among the hymns. I hope, nevertheless, that it proves edifying to those who choose to peruse it. It is intended to be sung to the tune Veni Redemptor gentium, on which the tune for Luther’s hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come (Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland)” is based, but it can of course be sung to any tune in 8.8. 8.8.
Also, because of the unfortunate compulsory introduction of the Gutenberg text editor on the WordPress platform, I am unable to implement some of the formatting that has become standard on the site. I am therefore experimenting here with some alternate formatting that reflects 16th- and 17th-century hymnal printing conventions. Eventually I may try migrating the rest of the site to this format, with the possibility of more beautiful fonts. We’ll see.
A few years ago, a parishioner of mine was baptized on the eve of Palm Sunday, the Saturday before Holy Week. Though I am a Lutheran pastor, I was raised Greek Orthodox, and so I continue to think of the eve of Palm Sunday as the “Saturday of Lazarus.” This fits with the record of St. John’s Gospel, which places the resurrection of Lazarus immediately before the triumphal entry. Indeed, according to St. John, the reason for the adulating crowds was the great miracle just performed in Bethany.
Our hymnals, however, lack any appropriate hymns for the resurrection of Lazarus. I therefore took the opportunity to write a hymn for the occasion. I drew the themes and most of the actual language from the Greek Orthodox Apolytikion and Kontakion for the Saturday of Lazarus, reproduced here courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website:
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Christ—the Joy, the Truth, and the Light of All, the Life of the World and the Resurrection—has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all.
My hymn is composed of three stanzas, the first and third based on the Apolytikion, the second on the Kontakion. It is rendered in the style of the Lutheran chorale, however, following the very common Reformation-era meter 8.7. 8.7. 8.8.7. The tune that I chose is “Es ist gewisslich,” which we associate most closely with the hymn of the Final Judgment, “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near,” itself based on the medieval hymn “Dies Irae.” Though it did not enter explicitly into my thinking, I suspect the connection of Lazarus’s resurrection to the general resurrection on the Last Day played at least subconsciously into my choice of tune.
Since this is a new composition and not a part of the genuine corpus of Lutheran chorales, I will not include it in the main website. It has been requested of me, however, that I make the hymn generally available, so I offer it here as a blog post. May the Lord Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, be glorified thereby.
By raising Laz’rus from the dead Ere Thou began Thy Passion, Thou didst, O Lord, remove our dread Of death in glorious fashion, For in his life a glimpse we see Of wonders in eternity: All likewise shall awaken.
Thou art, O Christ, the Life of all, Thou art the Resurrection. The blessèd dead shall heed Thy call And rise unto perfection. Thou who called Laz’rus from the grave Thyself didst rise, the world to save, Granting divine forgiveness.
And so we raise victorious palms With praise none shall extinguish, And cry to Thee with hymns and psalms, Who death for us didst vanquish: “Hosanna in the highest heav’n! All blessing now to Him be giv’n Who in the Lord’s name cometh!”
Following the success of last year’s German Christmas Service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Davenport, we’re looking forward to hosting another one this year. The service is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Sunday, December 14, at 4 PM. The Rev. John Preus of Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, Iowa, is scheduled to preach.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” So opens Isaiah 40:1–11, the Old Testament lesson used by many congregations of the Missouri Synod this past Sunday, the second in Advent. For those using the historic lectionary, the same lesson will be heard this coming Sunday. And what more fitting to accompany such a lesson than Johann Olearius‘s hymn, “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” (“Tröstet, tröstet meine Lieben“)?
In point of fact, “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” was not written as an Advent hymn. Olearius prepared it for inclusion in his hymnal Geistliche Singe-Kunst, Leipzig, 1671. This resource introduced many new hymns by Olearius, hymns that tended to be brief but carefully constructed. They were meant to provide something to sing for those days in the Church Year that had not already had a large body of hymnody devoted to them. “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” was written for the Feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24. The first lesson for that day was Isaiah 40:1–5, of which Olearius’s hymn is a paraphrase, and a skillful one at that, even in Catherine Winkworth’s masterful translation.
Stanzas 1 and 2 make clear the source of the comfort and peace which God speaks to His people: the forgiveness of their sins. “Tell her that her sins I cover,” says God to His preachers. With the forgiveness of sins comes the conversion of “pining sadness” into “ever-springing gladness.” Stanza 3 introduces John the Baptist, the “herald” who is “bidding all men to repentance,” as well as the motif of leveling: “Let the valleys rise to meet Him / And the hills bow down to greet Him.” Olearius’s wording suggests that God is speaking here not primarily of topography, but of the hearts of men. The haughty are to be made humble, bowing before God, and the humble are to be exalted, standing confident in His presence. This application is made more explicit in the fourth stanza, where the straight and the plain are interpreted as “hearts” made “true and humble,” though Olearius’s German speaks more in terms of a humble mode of living. In the end, the message of comfort through the coming of God’s kingdom in Christ will be made manifest to the entire world, as “all flesh shall see the token / That His Word is never broken.”
The tune is known in Lutheran hymnody by the name “Freu dich sehr,” for the text “Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele.” The tune originated in the Genevan Psalter as the melody for the metrical version of Psalm 42, but among English-speaking Lutherans, the tune is now most closely associated with Olearius’s hymn.
Though not originally intended for Advent, “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” surely embodies both the penitence and the joyful anticipation so characteristic of that season. John the Baptist, after all, figures prominently in the Advent observance, and his entire preaching was a testimony to Christ. Though Christ is not mentioned by name in the hymn, the fulfillment of Isaiah 40 in the preaching of John the Baptists reveals that Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who by His sacrifice takes away the sin of the world, is the one who brings comfort to Jerusalem and to the world.
May Olearius’s hymn, and the prophecy on which it is based, bring comfort to your household this Advent season.
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The Gospel Lesson for the First Sunday in Advent, whether you’re using the historic Western lectionary or the new three-year lectionary developed by the modern Roman Catholic Church, is the Triumphal Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. It is in view of this Gospel Lesson that Paul Gerhardt wrote his Advent hymn “O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee” (“Wie soll ich dich empfangen“).
From John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology, vol. 2, p. 1280:
First published in the Crüger-Runge G.B., 1653, No. 77 [actually No. 83], in 10 stanzas of 8 lines.… It is founded on Matthew 21:1–9, the Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent. The allusions in stanzas 6–9 would suggest that it was written during the Thirty Years’ War. It is one of Gerhardt’s finest productions, and is probably the best German Advent hymn.
This hymn is a fine example of the salutary subjectivity that characterizes so many Lutheran hymns of the seventeenth century. Stanza 1 attends to the state of the singer’s heart, which he prays will be prepared to receive the Christ at His Advent, both now in His Word, and on the Last Day in His glory. Stanza 2 features the imagery of the Triumphal Entry, but the rest of the hymn emphasizes the coming of the Christ into the flesh, and thereafter through the means of grace, to redeem His creatures from sin and death. Stanzas 9 and 10 turn to the final Advent of the Christ on the Last Day, when He will come “to judge the nations, / A terror to His foes,” but “A Light of consolations / And blessed hope to those / Who love the Lord’s appearing.”
Gerhardt’s hymn appears in The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, No. 58, where it is missing stanza 3. It also appears in the Lutheran Service Book, 2006, No. 334, where it is also missing stanzas 6, 7, and 9. The version at the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book includes all ten stanzas, restoring stanza 3 as found in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, 1930, No. 136.
A beautiful recording of stanzas 1, 2, and 4, sung in German by the Bach-Chor Siegen under the direction of Ulrich Stötzel, appears as the opening track on the album Paul Gerhardt: Die schönsten Choräle, available on iTunes and Amazon
[affiliate links]. And here is a video of a performance of those same stanzas, also in German:
This Advent season and always, may we all receive our Savior aright unto our eternal blessing!
About the Featured Image
The Paul Gerhardt Memorial, situated before the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche, stands in the town of Lübben, where Gerhardt served from 1668 until his death in 1676. Photo: Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.