LSB 659: Lord of Our Life

Selected for the fourth part of Trinitytide. Overall, Trinitytide is the “Time of the Church,” with the overriding theme of the Father’s love.  The fourth part of Trinitytide, namely Michaeltide, begins with Michaelmas, the September 29 Feast of St. Michael and All Angels; the theme is the struggle with Satan (Rev 12).

Contents:

Hymn text
Hymn authors
Hymn history
Hymn tune
Pulling it all together
End notes
Appendix

Hymn text

First stanza:

Vocabulary: supplication – act of earnestly and humbly begging for something

Read Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7 and Psalm 139:13-14.  Who created life?  Who created you?  What does this make you?  Read Matthew 6:25-34.  Who sustains you?  Read Psalm 79:9.  What is God’s glory, His proper work?  Read Revelation 22:16.  Who is the star of our night? Read Luke 24:46-47. Who is the hope of every nation?  Read Matthew 6:7-13; 1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8.  What does God teach about prayer?  This stanza implores God to hear His Church’s supplication. Look again at Matthew 6:9, noting that the prayer begins, “Our Father…” (Gk: Pater hemon, lit. “Father of us”), then read Hebrews 10:19-25. What does Scripture tell us about gathering together to receive God’s gifts and worship Him?  Read Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 19:6. What does this tell us about Jesus? 

Second stanza:

Vocabulary: billow – large sea wave; unfurl – spread out from a rolled or folded state; spite – desire to hurt

Read 1 Peter 3:20-21 (consider also the Baptism liturgy).  What is God’s ark?  Read John 6:16-21.  Who controls the sea?  Why might God send storms into our midst? Read John 8:44. How does Jesus describe God’s foe, namely Satan?  Read Numbers 21:8; Jeremiah 4:6.  What is the function of a banner/signal?  What is our banner?  Read Ephesians 6:16 and Revelation 12:10, 17.  What does it mean that God’s foes are unfurling their banners and hurling their fiery darts? Note that in the Ephesians text, “take up” (or, in the Greek, “having taken up”) is expressed in the plural. What is the implication here?  Why did Dr. Luther use the Ephesians text in his exhortation to Christians to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as possible (LC V 82)?  How does our Lord preserve us?

Third stanza:

Vocabulary: veil – conceal, obscure; assail – violently attack

Read Acts 26:18. What does it mean to be in darkness?  Read Psalm 84:11; John 1:4-9. Who is our light?  Read Psalm 146:3; Hosea 1:7.  What are examples of “earthly armor” in which we might sinfully put our ultimate trust? Who is truly our shield? Read Ephesians 6:10-18; Revelation 12:17. How does hell assail?  Read Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20. What is God’s peace? Read Acts 10:34-48.  Where does God grant us His peace? Read Matthew 16:18. What has God promised His Church?

Fourth stanza:

Vocabulary:  assuage – make an unpleasant feeling less intense

Read Mark 7:20-23 (Matthew 15:18-19).  What is the impact of sin on the heart?  Read Psalm 51:10; Philippians 4:7. Who is the antidote for this?  Read Psalm 51:1-2; Luke 18:13-14. Who assuages our troubled souls?  Read John 14:27. Can we have peace when “the world its endless war is raging”?  Read Matthew 26:26-29 (Mark 14:22-25); Revelation 19:6-9.  Where do we receive a foretaste of God’s heavenly peace?

Hymn authors:

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Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstern (1594-1648)1 was born as Matthäus Apelt in Prudnick (also known as Neustadt), Silesia (now Poland), in 1594.  His father was a saddler.  He studied at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder (249 miles to the northwest, currently on the German-Polish border), and then returned to Prudnik to become musical director of the church there.  In 1625, he was invited by Duke Heinrich Wenzel of Münsterberg (1592-1639) to be his music director and treasurer in Bierutow (also known as Bernstadt), about 70 miles to the north.  In 1631, he was appointed as Rath (senior official, member of the royal council), Secretary and Director of Finance.  He later served under the Roman Catholic Emperors Ferdinand II (1578-1637) and Ferdinand III (1608-1657), under whom he entered the nobility.  All of this took place during the time that the Thirty Years’ War came to Silesia, a war that had originated in the determination of these Roman Catholic emperors to enforce the counter-Reformation and eradicate the various Protestant confessions.2 His final position was that of State Councilor to Duke Karl Friedrich of Münsterberg (1593-1647).  Von Löwenstern was associated with the hymn writers David Behme (1605-1657) and Andreas Tscherning (1611-1659), and himself composed thirty hymns, “for spreading God’s glory and the building up of His Church and its members.”3 These hymns were published in Breslau in 1644.  Von Löwenstern died at Wroclaw (also known as Breslau, 71 miles north-northwest of his birthplace) in 1648.

Philip Pusey (1799-1855)4 was born in Pusey, England, and was the brother of Edward Bouverie Pusey, who was one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, which was dedicated to the reinstatement of catholic doctrine and practice into the Anglican liturgy and theology.  He studied at Eton and then Christ Church College at Oxford, but did not earn a degree.  Pusey had an interest in agriculture and helped found the Royal Agricultural Society.  He was a founder of the London Library and served many years as a Member of Parliament.  In 1823, Pusey expressed a desire to write theological material. In the five years immediately following, Pusey and his wife spent lengthy periods of time in Rome, where he got to know the Prussian diplomat, theologian and hymnologist Christian Carl Josias Bunsen (1791-1860).5 In time, Pusey himself became a hymn writer, and earned Bunsen’s admiration.  Following a series of strokes, he died in Oxford in 1855.  LSB 659 is Pusey’s only hymn in our hymnal.

Hymn history:

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The Thirty Years’ War brought disease, destruction and death to many parts of Europe.  Silesia was among the hardest hit areas, with a loss of more than one third, and even in parts two thirds, of her population, as depicted on the map below (shadings indicate percent population loss):6

It is out of the turmoil of that devastation that Matthäus von Löwenstern penned his hymn Christe, du Beistand deiner Kreuzgemeine, published in 1644.  A rough translation of the hymn may be found in the appendix.7

Two hundred years following the Thirty Years’ War, the leaders of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England were undergoing struggles of their own in their campaign against the latitudinarianism (the push against specific doctrine) in the church.  Lawsuits were filed, and Bishops refused to provide livings for Oxford Movement clergy.  In the midst of these struggles, Philip Pusey was inspired by von Löwenstern’s hymn, and paraphrased it into a 5-stanza hymn, thus bringing it into the English hymnody.8 The hymn was first published in 1839. The first appearance of the hymn in the LCMS hymnody was the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH), which used all 5 stanzas of the Pusey text with minor alterations (TLH 258).  The 1982 Lutheran Worship (LW) dropped the 5th stanza, keeping stanzas 1-4 (LW 301), with further minor alterations in the text.  The LSB hymn retains stanzas 1-4. Other than modernized language (ex: thy ➔ you), the alterations from the original Pusey text are as follows:

Stanza 2: “Lord, while their darts of venom they are hurling” ➔ “And with great spite their fiery darts are hurling”

Stanza 2: “Thou canst preserve us” ➔ “O Lord preserve us”

Stanza 3: “Lord, Thou canst help when earthly armor faileth” ➔ “Lord be our light when worldly darkness veils us”

Stanza 3: “Lord Thou canst save, when sin itself assaileth” ➔ “Lord, be our shield when earthy armor fails us” (first two clauses in this stanza flipped; more discussion below)

Stanza 3: “Christ, o’er Thy rock nor death nor hell prevaileth” ➔ “And in the day when hell itself assails us” (TLH substituted “Church” for “rock;” the shift to the current text dates to LW, using “appalls” which LSB changed to “assails.”  Pity to lose the direct reference to Matthew 16:18, thoughts?)

Stanza 4: “Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging” ➔ “Peace in our hearts, where sinful thoughts are raging”

Stanza 4: “Peace in Thy Church where brothers are engaging” ➔ “Peace in Your Church, our troubled souls assuaging”

Stanza 4: “Peace when the world its busy war is raging” ➔ “Peace when the world its endless war is raging”

Stanza 4: “Calm Thy foes raging” ➔ “Peace in Your heaven” (summarizes the closure in the original stanza 5)

Stanza 5 (TLH):

Grant us Thy help till backward they are driven;
Grant them Thy truth that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth or, after we have striven,
Peace in Thy heaven.

While the page in LSB classifies the Pusey hymn as a translation of the original German hymn, the editors of the Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns classify the hymn as, “a new text … based on Löwenstern’s.”9 Either way, the hymn poignantly reminds us that in the struggle with Satan, our one and only certain hope is in our crucified, risen and ascended Savior.  It is well positioned in the Church Militant section of our hymnal. Of note, Lord of Our Life is the Chief Hymn for Oculi (Lent 3; Luke 11:14-28, Jesus accused of driving out demons by Beelzebub, “if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me…”).

Hymn tune:

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Von Löwenstern composed a tune to accompany his hymn, which was used by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) for his chorale on the hymn (BWV 275). The Bach chorale can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PguOUKi7Ic (accessed 7 August, 2020). TLH used the Johann Crüger (1598-1662) tune Herzliebster Jesu (O Dearest Jesus, LSB 439) to accompany the hymn. 

In the LCMS hymnody, the tune Iste Confessor was first used in LW to accompany the hymn, and was brought forward to LSB.10 The name of the tune is derived from the first line of the Latin hymn which it originally accompanied, Iste confessor Domini sacratus (This is the holy confessor of the Lord, an 8th century hymn written for the commemoration of Confessor Bishops).11 The composer is unknown. The tune first appeared as a chant, in the Antiphoner (bound collection of antiphons) published in Poitiers, France in 1746, a time when the Catholic church in France worked to limit papal authority, and liturgies were developed for individual French dioceses.12 The tune falls into a category known as “neo-Gallican Chant,” recalling the time when the French had their own “Gallican” uses, before the late eighth century standardization of liturgical practices under Charlemagne’s rule. These chants were first brought to England around the turn of the 20th century by JB Croft, who served as both priest and organist. The metering of the tune that is in our hymnal is not original to the chant, but was added later, possibly when adapted for English language use.13 The tune is written in minor key, and conveys a sense of struggle, but with a beat indicating confidence in the ultimate outcome. The Iste Confessor tune is used also for LSB 840 and 916, with the arrangement in 840 being unique to that hymn. Other tunes in our hymnal, derived from neo-Gallican chants, include LSB 401, 504/875, 640, 520/675, and 630/847.

Pulling it all together:

[table of contents]

  1. Who is the Author of Life and Salvation?
  2. Who is always in control?
  3. In the midst of war, disease and devastation, what do we have left?
  4. In Whom are we to put our ultimate trust?
  5. What is our ark in stormy waters? Where does God will to gather us to receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation? Are there exceptions to this during times when the evil one attacks, even with infections?
  6. How might the evil one use times of pandemic to wage war on God’s people?

End notes:

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  1. Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstern, https://hymnary.org/person/Lowenstern_MA (accessed 6 August, 2020); Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstern, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthäus_Apelles_von_Löwenstern  (accessed 6 August, 2020); Aryeh Oron, Matthäus Appelles von Löwenstern (Hymn-writer, Composer), https://bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Lowenstern.htm (accessed 6 August, 2020); Löwenstern, Matthäus Apelles von, https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/sfz54002.html (accessed 6 August, 2020).
  2. Löwenstern was ennobled by Ferdinand III would indicate that he had the Emperor’s favor, and might possibly have used that to negotiate salutary terms for his fellow Lutherans.  The Lutheran church organist Andreas Rauch, contemporary of von Löwenstern, acted similarly; see Andrew H. Weaver, “The Materiality of Musical Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe: Representation and Negotiation in Andreas Rauch’s Currus triumphalis musicus (1648),” The Journal of Musicology 35 (2018): pp. 460-497.
  3. Information from Stephen M. Rosebrock, “Pusey, Philip,” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) p. 592; David R. Fisher, Pusey, Philip (1799-1855) of Pusey, nr. Faringdon, Berks. https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1820-1832/member/pusey-philip-1799-1855 (accessed 6 August 2020).
  4. Bunsen would later go on to influence the career of Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).
  5. Map from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bevölkerkungsrückgang_im_HRRDN_nach_dem_Dreißigjährigen_Krieg.PNG (accessed 7 August 2020).
  6. For the German text, see for example http:// http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale275-Eng3.htm (accessed 7 August, 2020).
  7. Information from Robert Kolb, “Lord of our life and God of our salvation,” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) pp. 845-847.
  8. Companion, Volume 1, p. 847
  9. Information from Companion, Volume 1, pp. 1466-1467. Of note, Iste Confessor was the tune used in the 1906 English Hymnal, to accompany the hymn (435).
  10. Joseph Connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster: Newman Press, 1957) p. 151.
  11. See the essay by Joseph Herl in Companion, Volume 1, p. 793-795.
  12. The metering is present in the 1906 English Hymnal.

Appendix:

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Christe, du Beistand deiner Kreuzgemeine

Christ, support of Your Cross-fellowship
Hurry, with help and rescue appear to us,
Control the enemies, their blood-judgments
Make nullified


Fight yourself for us poor children
Fight the devil, his power prevent
All that fights against Your members
Fall down


Peace in church and schools grant to us
Peace at the same time to the authorities grant
Peace to the hearts, peace to the consciences,
Give to enjoy


Thus shall in time Your goodness be raised
Thus shall forever and without end praise
You, O You guardian of Your poor herd,
Heaven and Earth

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