LSB 395: O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright – Epiphanytide

We have chosen LSB 395: O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright, as our seasonal hymn for Epiphanytide, AD 2022. During the Epiphany season, the Church recounts the glorious appearances and manifestations of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The season is thus often known as the season of light, recalling Jesus as the light of the world, which the darkness has not overcome (John 1:4-5, 8:12).

O Morning Star was written as a wedding hymn of the Church to her heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The first stanza opens the hymn with words of adoration for Jesus, the Morning Star (Revelation 2:26-28, 22:16) eternally begotten of the Father, who humbled Himself by taking on our flesh, was born into the lineage of David, and suffered death on the Cross to atone for our sins.  He rose again, defeating death, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all (Psalm 110; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Philippians 2:5-11). The second stanza continues by speaking to the mystical union of the Church and her Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33), in Whose Body she lives and is given that very life that sustains her even though times of great distress.  The third stanza speaks to the gifts bestowed on the Church by her Bridegroom; namely His very presence in His Word and Sacrament, bringing forgiveness, life and salvation. The fourth stanza reminds us that, in her Bridegroom, the Church and her members were chosen from before the foundation of the world to be ransomed by His blood, to live in Him now and into eternity (Ephesians 1:3-14), for which she returns her sacrifice of praise.  The fifth stanza describes the jubilant response of the Church in music to Her Bridegroom, Christ, the King of Glory, who is with her all the way (Psalm 33:1-5; Ephesians 5:19).  The sixth and final stanza speaks of the great joy of the Church in her Bridegroom, now and into eternity, knowing for certain that she will at the Last Day be taken to “that happy place beyond all tears and sinning” (Revelation 21:1-6).

This beautiful and powerful hymn was written by the Rev. Dr. Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) during a time of plague, in which he lost 1400 of his parishioners in a seven-month period.  Additionally, throughout his time in the Office of the Holy Ministry, Nicolai frequently experienced persecution for his strong defense of Biblical Truth.  In spite of all he had suffered and was suffering, Pr. Nicolai knew that Jesus died to atone for his sins and rose again to declare him right with the Father (Romans 4:25). The faith gifted to him in his Heavenly Bridegroom was firm, and in full assurance of this faith, he experienced God’s heavenly joy even in the midst of tremendous hardship and suffering (Hebrews 10:19-25).

We experience our Lord’s epiphany to us throughout the year, as He comes to us when we gather for His Divine Services of Word and Sacrament (or simply of the Word).  And yes, He continues to come to us during times of persecution, plague and other hardship, giving us assurance of our salvation and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come, which, try as they might, no one can take away (Romans 8:38-39). For this, we rejoice (Philippians 4:4)! We thank God for your presence today and pray His richest blessings on you as you receive His gifts in our midst.

LSB 359: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming – Christmastide

https://www.folger.edu/events/lo-how-a-rose-e-er-blooming

We have chosen LSB 359, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, as our AD 2021-2022 Christmastide seasonal hymn. During this beautiful season of the Church Year, we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ’s taking on human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to dwell among us, ultimately to die on the Cross to atone for our sins, and rise again to declare us right with the Father (Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:30-55, 2:1-18, 28-32, 38; John 1:1, 14; Romans 4:25).

Lo, How a Rose was originally written as a hymn about Mary.  In Church tradition, the Blessed Virgin has long been referred to as the, “Mystic Rose” (c.f. LSB 525.2, “Fruit of the mystic rose…”). This is possibly derived from Song of Songs/Solomon 2:1, in which the King’s bride, metaphorically the Church, calls herself a, “rose of Sharon.”1 When Michael Praetorius (c.1571-1621) adapted Lo, How a Rose for use in the Lutheran congregations, he changed the emphasis to Jesus as the Rose of the hymn.  Of note, Jesus is commonly referred to as, “Rose of Sharon.” It is unclear when the tradition began, though the title aptly fits.  Both the rose and Jesus are beautiful. Furthermore, the rose contains thorns and Jesus wore a crown of thorns at His Passion. Finally, roses are often given as gifts, and the salvation in Jesus is the greatest gift any of us could ever receive!2

The first two stanzas speak to the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, notably that of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1-2).  The opening word, “Lo,” of the English translation of Theodore Baker (1851-1934), is an archaic way of saying, “Behold,” namely, “Pay attention,” emphasized by the use of the half-note to somewhat prolong the call.3 In response, we acknowledge that “with Mary we behold it,” namely the birth of Jesus our Savior (Matthew 1:20-21). He is the, “tender” (young) “stem” from the lineage (stump) of Jesse foretold by Isaiah.4 Furthermore, drawn from Luke 2:8-11, Church tradition has long held that Jesus’ birth took place, “when half-spent was the night,” namely at midnight, the darkest time of the night (c.f. John 1:4-5).

The third stanza, a nineteenth-century addition by Friedrich L. C. Layritz (1808-1859), points us squarely to the Cross as the ultimate reason for our Lord’s incarnation. His “fragrance tender” speaks to His sacrificial death for us (Ephesians 5:2).  His work on the Cross is “glorious splendor” (Psalm 111:3-4; John 12:23-24), dispelling the darkness everywhere (John 12:46; 2 Corinthians 4:6 and others).  On Calvary’s mountain, Jesus, “True man, yet very God,” saves us, “from sin and death” (Hebrews 2:14-15), “and lightens every load” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The fourth and final stanza ends the hymn with a prayer to our Savior, “who felt our human woe,” and “who dost our weakness know” (Hebrews 4:15), that He bring us at last “to the bright courts of heaven, and to the endless day,” namely eternal life in His presence (Revelation 21:22-22:5).  We pray this in certain confidence, knowing that He has promised this to us and is faithful to His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

The LSB has retained Praetorius’ musical setting for this hymn.  This past year has marked the 400th anniversary of his going to be with Jesus, and possibly the 450th anniversary of his first-article birth, namely his emergence from his mother’s womb.  Praetorius’ musical contributions were significant, and we commend to your reading Brian Lenharth’s excellent Michael Praetorius 1571-1621, a Biography; copies are available in the Narthex.

We rejoice that God has brought you into our presence today as together we behold His Son, our Rose, receiving His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. We pray His richest blessings on you this Christmastide and throughout the new year of His grace (LSB 896).

End notes

  1. See also Isaiah 35:1, where the Hebrew word chabatseleth is translated, “crocus” in the ESV; the KJV retains, “rose” in the Isaiah text.
  2. Bob Riggert, It’s Still All About Jesus, 2017-2018 Chapel Talks for Lutheran Schools (St. Louis: LCMS School Ministry, 2017) p. 38
  3. The German text reads, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, literally, “It is a rose sprung up.”
  4. The Hebrew word for “stem,” or, “branch” in the Isaiah text, netzer, contains the prophecy of Jesus that, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23, Gospel text for Christmas 2)

LSB 949 Heavenly Hosts in Ceaseless Worship – All Saints-tide

Today marks the beginning of All Saints-tide, the final part of the long Trinity season.  As we end the Church Year looking to the Eschaton (the Last Day), we have chosen LSB 949, Heavenly Hosts in Ceaseless Worship, as our seasonal hymn.  This hymn is a versification of the Dignus es (“Worthy are You”) canticle, which in turn is drawn from the song of praise sung by the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4,5 [also Isaiah 6]) and all the company of heaven (Revelation 7). The hymn is similar to LSB 950, which we studied together as a congregation and sang during Eastertide (for further detail please see the notes at https://catalinalutheran.org/blog/2020/03/27/lsb-950-splendor-and-honor/).  In our singing of this hymn (as well as in our singing of the Gloria and the Sanctus), we join our voices with those of the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven, in their ceaseless praise of God!  When we do so, we are reminded in this time of pandemic, unrest and temporal uncertainty, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).  We can rejoice and be glad, knowing that we will sing these very same songs of praise into eternity, as we take our places, along with those who have gone before us and have died in The Faith, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Matthew 22/Luke 14; Matthew 25; Revelation 19). The 20th century tune Love’s Light (also used for LSB 416) echoes the strains of early American folk music, note for example the similarity to the 1825 tune Holy Manna (LSB 540, 584 and 782). We are pleased that you have joined us today and pray God’s blessings on you as you receive His gifts in our midst.

LSB 768: To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray – Spiritual renewal Legacy Hymn

Our Lutheran fathers recognized that solid Christian hymnody teaches important Truths of The Faith.1 Thus, as an evangelical Lutheran congregation, we naturally selected hymns for the two parts of our Building a legacy in Christ Crucified campaign. Titled Legacy Hymns, these hymns, joined with the readings and prayers, are chosen to help guide your devotions during this time of intensified reflection on what God is doing in the life of our congregation, and how we, as His people, respond.

The Legacy Hymn chosen for the first phase of the campaign, the period of spiritual renewal, is To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray (LSB 768).2 The hymn is an example of a Leise, a German language spiritual song from the late Middle Ages, usually a single stanza, ending with the word Kyrieleis, short for Kyrie eleison (“Lord have mercy”).

The text dates back at least to the 13th century and the melody is thought to be just as old. German congregations sang the one-stanza hymn at Pentecost after the choir had sung the sequence Veni sancte spiritus (“Come Holy Spirit”).3 Dr. Luther (1483-1546) retained the hymn, believing it to be exemplary for use in the service and a model for new hymn writers.

In 1524, he expanded the hymn to 4 stanzas, following which it was published both in Straßburg and in Wittenberg. Dr. Luther positioned it in his 1526 Deutsche Messe (“German Mass,” from which the CLC Festival Service is adapted) as a Gradual Hymn between the readings of the Epistle and the Gospel, invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit that those present might believe and receive the forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel.4 The melody is written in a pentatonic scale, namely, it uses just a five-note set of pitches, a common folk-music tradition at the time. Johann Walter (1496-1570) wrote a five-voice chorale arrangement of the melody for his 1524 Wittenberg hymnal. In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, this hymn is now used as Hymn of the Day for Trinity 1.

The purpose of spiritual renewal is to learn better how God desires to strengthen us in The Faith in and through our use of His gifts. As we enter into the spiritual renewal phase of the campaign, we are reminded that we are not able to accomplish this by our own reason or strength, and need the help of the Holy Spirit (SC, Creed, Third Article). Each of the stanzas of our spiritual renewal Legacy Hymn contain elements of a Collect, in which we address the Holy Spirit by name, make a petition for spiritual renewal, and follow with a reason for the petition.

The first stanza, the original which Dr. Luther retained, sets the overall theme with an address to the Holy Spirit, followed by a spiritual renewal petition for True Faith, and concluding with a reason for the petition, that in the end He defend us and grant us a death in that same True Faith to await the resurrection to eternal life in Christ. The second through fourth stanzas each begin with an address to the Holy Spirit by a name that reflects one of His properties (sweetest Love, transcendent Comfort, precious Light).

Then follows a spiritual renewal petition suitable to the specific property named (His grace setting our hearts aglow with sacred fire, help to not heed scorn or death, teach us to rightly know Jesus). Finally, each concludes with a reason for the petition, noting accomplished renewal (Christian unity and love, strength during times of trial, perseverance until death). At the end of each of the stanzas is the Kyrie eleison, the “Lord have mercy,” confessing the Lordship of the Holy Spirit and His merciful nature.  

We cannot build a legacy in Christ-crucified without being strong in The Faith that He was crucified for us. Just as Dr. Luther used the words of our Legacy Hymn for the faithful of his time to invoke the Holy Spirit that they believe and receive the forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel, so it is meet and right that we begin our campaign by using the same hymn to pray to God the Holy Spirit for that same True Faith needed on our way.

God’s richest blessings on your journey to spiritual renewal as you behold anew what God is doing for you and for us at Catalina Lutheran Church, and discern the particular role to which He is calling you in the building of His salvific legacy in our congregation. 

End notes:

1.     See for example FC Ep I 8 and FC SD I 23.

2.     Information on the hymn is taken from the notes in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2019), pp. 1128-1131

3.     AE 53:263. 

4. AE 53:74. Also Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music, Principles and Implications (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), p. 179.  Later, as hymns were written specific to the Sundays and feast days of the Church Year, these were used as Gradual hymns in the Deutsche Messe and became our Chief Hymns, or Hymns of the Day, see Leaver, Luther, p. 302. Note that there was no Old Testament reading in the Deutsche Messe.

LSB 645: Built on the Rock – Stewardship Legacy Hymn

Our Legacy Hymn for the second phase of the Building a Legacy in Christ-Crucified campaign, our period of stewardship, is Built on the Rock (LSB 645).1 The hymn was published in 1837 by the Danish Pastor Nikolai Fredrik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872)2. At the time, the Danish church then was pervaded by Rationalism which preached human virtue, but not sin and forgiveness. This led to congregational decline. Early in his career, Rev. Grundtvig embraced historic Christian (and therefore Lutheran) orthodoxy, and his influence is credited with having brought somewhat of a revival to the Church in both Denmark and Norway.3 Despite his later adopting a number of heterodox theological positions,4 Rev. Grundtvig wrote solidly orthodox hymns. Two of them are included in LSB (today’s and LSB 582, God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage, which he considered to be a fifth stanza to Dr. Luther’s A Mighty Fortress).

The hymn melody (C minor) was written by the Norwegian composer Ludvig M. Lindeman (1812-1887). It was published in 1840. It follows the bar form pattern (AAB) of the mediaeval court song. Lindeman repeatedly utilized a style that combined “old peace and dignity” with “simple folksong-like forms.”5

As we prayerfully discern how we might share the gifts God has given us, as our participation in His Kingdom work, it is proper for us to meditate on what is meant by the term “Church.” Our Confessions teach that the Church is the “holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd” (SA III XII 2), the “congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered” (AC VII 1), through which God “daily and richly forgives … the sins of all believers” (SC II Third Article).

In Built on the Rock, Rev. Grundtvig has beautifully set those concepts to verse. The first stanza begins with the Scriptural Truth that Jesus has built His Church on the Rock – Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 7:24-27, 16:13-20).6 The second stanza reminds us that we do not grab hold of God through the construction of our church buildings, rather He chooses to come down to us in His Word and Sacraments. He dwells in us by faith in Christ-Crucified for us. He makes us His temple (Acts 17:24-25; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; FC SD III 54). The third stanza further explores the Biblical teaching of Christians as “living stones” through Baptism, being built up into Jesus’ holy Temple, with Him as Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-6). The stanza concludes with the reminder that Jesus dwells even in the midst of only two (Matthew 18:20).7 The fourth stanza picks up on the concept of the Church as the congregation receiving God’s gifts through His unchanging Word and Sacraments (Hebrews 13:8). The fifth stanza wraps up the hymn with a prayer to God that He will use His Church to bring His will to completion – that all will be saved and come to knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; CLC Mission Statement).  

Built on the Rock is one of the wonderful treasures of the Church. It is well-suited for the stewardship phase of the Building a Legacy in Christ-Crucified campaign. At Catalina Lutheran Church, God has truly built His Church on the Rock. During times of adversity, He has never abandoned His people in this place. He has made us a congregation in which Law and Gospel are properly preached and taught and the Sacraments rightly administered. He continues to draw the “young and old,” and “above all the souls distressed,” to Catalina Lutheran Church to hear and rest in the proclamation of Christ-crucified for the forgiveness of their sins, and the sins of the world. He has made this our legacy.

We pray to our Triune God that He will continue to build His Church here in Catalina, moving us to give back to Him as He has given to us, that for centuries henceforth until Jesus returns on the clouds, “many in saving faith will come where Christ His message is bringing.” Amen.

End notes:

  1. The information on the hymn is taken from the notes by Mark DeGarmeaux in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2019), pp. 807-809
  2. The information on Rev. Grundtvig is taken from the notes by Mark DeGarmeaux in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2019), pp. 370-371. Also, Mark A. Granquist, ed. Scandinavian Pietists: Spiritual Writings from 19th-Century Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland (New York and Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2015), pp. 19-23 and 101-128.  Finally, Wilhelm W. Petersen, Warm Winds From The South: The Spread of Pietism to Scandinavian Lutherans, at https://www.blts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/WWP-Pietism.pdf (accessed 28 January, 2020)
  3. Rev. Grundtvig had a great love for Denmark and her history and literature, and published widely in this area. He thus influenced the development of a Danish national culture and consciousness, to which he saw Christianity as integral. This may have been an additional factor bringing individuals back to the church. Note that from 1523 until 1814, Norway was a part of Denmark. 
  4. Examples include his teachings of a Dominical origin of the Apostles’ Creed, and a distinction between the “written Word” in Scripture, mere written words that tell us about Christ, and the “living Word,” namely the words of the Apostles’ Creed and the Sacraments, which bring Christ to us (see Mark DeGarmeaux’s notes on LSB 582 in Companion, Volume 1, p. 647). Furthermore, Rev. Grundtvig’s followers taught the possibility of the post-mortem conversion of the soul.
  5. Marion Lars Hendrickson, Musica Christi – A Lutheran Aesthetic (New York: Peter Lang, 2005), p. 143. Also the notes by Erling T. Teigen in Companion, Volume 2, p. 486. Although the notes indicate that Lindeman did not use folk melodies in his 1871 chorale book, others have noted the influence of folk music on many of his hymns. Lindeman also wrote the melody for LSB 435.
  6. The original Danish text speaks of the Church as “an old house” (et gammelt Huus). Carl Døving introduced “Rock” into his English translation.
  7. This was a radical concept at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry as the Jews required a group of 10 men above the age of 13 for public worship, see for example Mishnah Megillah 4:3, and Talmud Megillah 23b, both accessed on 29 January, 2020 at https://www.sefaria.org.

LSB 649: Blest Be the Tie that Binds – Lawrencetide

Tomorrow (August 10) marks the Commemoration of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (225-258).  In 257, when Sixtus II (?-258) became Pope, he installed Lawrence into the office of Deacon, and made him Archdeacon of Rome (i.e. first among the seven Deacons of the city).  His responsibilities included oversight of the treasury of the Church, and the care of the poor.  Shortly thereafter, Emperor Valerian (200-260) began his persecution of the Church.  Ambrose of Milan (340-397) later reported that when the persecutors demanded the treasures of the Church from Lawrence, he promised that he would show them. Lawrence then distributed the funds among the poor.  The following day, he brought the poor together and when asked by the authorities where the treasures were, he pointed to them saying, “These are the treasures of the Church.”1 The authorities were infuriated, and put Lawrence to death on August 10, 258, by roasting him on a gridiron. 

Lawrence was a baptized child of God, regularly heard His Word and received His Supper.  He thus knew that he was free in Christ to cooperate in His work of mercy among the poor.  In The One True Faith, Lawrence was able to see these downtrodden as ones for whom Christ died, rose, and ascended and on whom He had bestowed His Holy Spirit.  Although beaten down, these poor had the treasure of, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in their “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). In the depth of their need, they clearly saw their total dependence on God, and could truly be called the “treasures of the Church.”

With today’s Divine Service, we transition into the portion of the Trinity season known as Lawrencetide, so named from tomorrow’s Commemoration.  Following on what God did through the life of Lawrence, the emphases of this 7.5-week period are sanctification, love of Church and good works.  For this year’s Lawrencetide seasonal hymn, we selected LSB 649, Blest Be the Tie That Binds, which beautifully reflects on these points.  We are bound together through our Baptism and regular receipt of our Lord’s gifts of His Word and Supper.  We are free in Christ to lift each other up in prayer, and make each other’s burdens our own.  When one of our fellowship goes to be with the Lord, we mourn our temporary loss, but remain confident in the certain hope that we will meet again.  Our love for others here and now is but a mere shadow of that which shall be into eternity, when we will no longer be able to sin!

We are thankful for the example of Lawrence, whose life and death point squarely to the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus, sustainer of body and soul.  We are thankful that God has made you to be treasures of His Church here in Catalina.  We are thankful that through the years, and especially during this time of pandemic, He has enlivened your hearts to make the woes and burdens of others your own.  We are thankful that you regularly share His blessed gifts with those in need, through your donations to the mercy arm of this congregation, including the Diaconate, Operation Barnabas, Lutherans for Life (Family First), and the LWML.  We are thankful for your presence today, and pray God’s blessings on you as you receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, strengthening you in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another.

End notes

  1. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, Book II, Chapter XVIII (paragraphs 140, 141) at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf210.html (accessed 31 July 2020)

LSB 421: Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing – Lent

We have chosen LSB 421, Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing, for our 2021 Lenten seasonal hymn.  The hymn was first published in 1644, but was inspired by a text at least 500 years older, which focuses on Jesus’ wounds as a healing remedy for lust, temptation and all affliction (Isaiah 53:4-5; 1 Peter 2:21-24).  Our Lord Himself taught us to pray, “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Only in His forgiving and healing wounds may we be led away from temptation and delivered from evil, be made whole, and look forward to a blessed end, when our Father takes us from this “valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven” (SC III Seventh Petition).  It is this truth that underlies our prayers through this hymn.  Note that Jesus’ wounds themselves are not objects for us to venerate, rather are reminders of His Crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the first stanza, we pray that our Lord guard us from the temptations that arise from within our sinful selves, as He has promised (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is these sinful temptations that lead to illness of body and mind, and we pray for the healing that only the wounds of His Passion can offer. In the second stanza, we pray for the courage to resist the attacks of the evil one (Revelation 12:17) through God’s Word (“Christ for me was wounded;” 1 Corinthians 1:23; Ephesians 6:10-17), knowing that Jesus Himself was able to so resist Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, the Gospel text for Invocavit, or Lent 1 [Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13]).  In the third stanza, we pray our Lord turn us from the wide gate and easy way of the fallen world, namely the seductive and sinful vices that lead to destruction, to the narrow gate and hard way, namely prayer and meditation on His Passion and death on the Cross, that keep us alive in Him (Matthew 7:13-14).  In the fourth stanza, we remind Jesus (and ourselves) of the benefits of His Passion and death: nothing that we suffer in this life can separate us from our wholeness, namely our salvation, obtained through His sacrificial love for us (Romans 8:31-39).  We conclude in the fifth stanza, declaring that by His death and Resurrection, Jesus has crushed death in the dust (Genesis 3:15). We pray that His Passion continue be a source of comfort to us to the time of our death, that, having been healed through His Crucifixion, we may sleep certain in the hope of His ongoing protection, and at the last, our resurrection to eternal life in Him (1 Corinthians 15).

Johann Heermann (1585-1647) penned this hymn toward the end of his life.  From childhood, he experienced long periods of poor health, which were especially severe toward the end of his life.  His first wife died childless. Early on, the town in which he served as Pastor was almost completely destroyed by fire, and subsequently suffered recurrent plundering from invading Roman Catholic forces during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  Furthermore, in 1631 the town suffered a plague which killed 550 of its inhabitants.  On several occasions, Heermann lost all of his material possessions.  At one point, he was forced into hiding for 4 months, and on several occasions was almost killed by sword and gun.  By God’s grace alone, rather than succumbing to Satan, Heermann remained secure, knowing that he was a baptized child of God. In His Crucifixion, Jesus was wounded for him, and he was forgiven, healed and saved (LSB 568.3).  In the end, this was the only thing he ever truly needed! 

We are now entering the second Lententide of the current pandemic, on top of which, we are now faced with changing political realities.  Like Heermann, we may remain secure in the knowledge that Jesus was crucified for our sins as well, as we daily remember our Baptism, and at least weekly receive His gifts of forgiveness, healing, life and salvation in His Divine Services!  We are thankful for your presence today and wish God’s richest blessings on you as you receive His healing Word and Sacrament in our midst.

LSB 639: Wide Open Stand the Gates – All Saints-tide

Having spent the past almost 6 weeks reflecting on endurance in the face of tribulation, we now begin a season of hope, as we close in on the end of the Church Year. This final part of the Trinity half-year is named All Saints-tide, for the November 1 feast which ushers in these 4 weeks.  Our certain hope is grounded in the Eschaton (the Last Day) with its promise of eternal life in Jesus for those who believe in Him-crucified for the forgiveness of their sins. We have chosen LSB 639, Wide Open Stand the Gates as our AD 2021 All Saints-tide seasonal hymn.  In this hymn, we sing of God’s service to us, particularly in His Supper, in which He joins heaven and earth, giving us a glimpse of the eternal feast to come (Revelation 19:6-9).  As He calls and gathers us here to receive His gifts at least weekly throughout the Church Year, God gives us the “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

The first stanza opens with a picture of heaven, the New Jerusalem, with her gates of pearl which are never closed (Revelation 21:12, 21, 25), and God’s golden throne (Exodus 25:17, 22, 37:6) at the center. The saints and all the company of heaven surround God’s throne, joyously praising Him (Revelation 5), and watch Him descend to earth, to bring forgiveness, life and salvation to His beggar-saints awaiting below (Matthew 16:18-19, 18:18-20).  The second stanza continues with that which Jesus is doing upon His descent to us, namely feeding us with His Supper.  We sing of His Words of Institution, now chanted to us through Pastor (Matthew 26:26-28 and parallels). When we partake of Jesus’ very Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and wine, we proclaim His death while we await His final coming (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our Savior’s Body bears the wounds of His Passion into eternity (Revelation 5:6).  It is by His wounded Body and shed Blood that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).  He is truly both Host and Meal for us (“Gives His Body for the feast – Christ the victim, Christ the priest,” LSB 633.2), a concept which our native human reason cannot fathom but for which we give our eucharisteo, or thanks.  The third and final stanza, gives us the image of that which is taking place in heaven as Jesus comes to us in His Supper.  We behold the cherubim and the saints who have gone before us singing His praise (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:4-5:14),1 and with whom we join when we sing the Sanctus in the Service of the Sacrament (“Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Holy, holy, holy …”).  Through the Sacrament, God binds us together as one (1 Corinthians 10:17), joins earth and heaven (Isaiah 6:3), and present and eternity.

Wide Open Stand the Gates appeared for the first time in a collection of hymns, prayers, psalms and meditations published by Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe (1808-72), to help Christians prepare for Confession/Absolution and the Lord’s Supper. While the hymn itself was unattributed in the book, it is very consistent with Löhe’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper and thus it is assumed that he is the author.  Löhe, who served for many years in Neuendettelsau, Germany, worked to reclaim the theological and liturgical treasures of Confessional Lutheranism from the Pietism and Rationalism that had taken hold of the Church.2 On a personal level, he was deeply impacted by the death of his wife at age 24, and yearned for the Last Day, when all of God’s saints would be joined at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  He engaged in acts of mercy to the sick and the aged, and founded the Deaconess House, which brought unmarried girls and young women into the life of the Church and her outreach ministry.  Finally, Löhe provided pastors to the rapidly expanding Confessional Lutheran Church in the United States.

We are thankful to God for sending His Son to die on the Cross to atone for our sins, and to rise again to declare us right with Him (Romans 4:25).  We are thankful for the certain hope that He has given us of eternal life in His Kingdom.  We are thankful for His gathering us together to receive the constant assurance which enables us to hold fast to this hope, even in times of trial and tribulation.  We are thankful to God for His work through Rev Löhe to gift us this hymn to sing as the Supper is being prepared for us. Finally, we are thankful to God for your presence with us today and pray His richest blessings on you as you receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in our midst.

Note:

  1. The cherubim are implicitly present in Isaiah 6, in association with the throne (Exodus 25:22; Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 37:16).  The four living creatures in Revelation 4, while not explicitly identified as cherubim, fit closely with Ezekiel’s description of these angels (Ezekiel 1:4-28, 10:1-22).
  2. Pietism places pious desires and emotions above pure doctrine.  Rationalism is the worship of reason over divine revelation.

LSB 872, Come, Thou Bright and Morning Star – Advent

We have chosen LSB 872, Come, Thou Bright and Morning Star, as our Advent 2021 seasonal hymn.  Advent marks the beginning of a new Church Year. Throughout this season, we remember Jesus’ first advent, or coming, and, in continuity with the final weeks of the old year, anticipate His Parousia, or final return. Advent is sometimes called a “mini-Lent,” a penitential season during which we reflect on our sin and need for a Savior, as we prepare for His arrival.  During Advent, we fast from the Gloria in Excelsis, which we will resume when we join again with the multitude of the heavenly host in their great song of praise on the Eve of the Feast of the Nativity (Luke 2:14).

The hymn opens with a prayer to Jesus, our bright morning star (Revelation 22:16), to come into our midst, shine His light upon us and drive away the darkness of our sin (Isaiah 9:2; John 1:4-5, 8:12, 12:46).  Also, of note is the reference to Jesus being “without beginning,” namely True God, coeternal with the Father, thus refuting the Arian heresy of Jesus as created being (John 1:1; Colossians 1:17; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 22:13; Athanasian Creed).  The second and third stanzas expand on the opening. Like the Aaronic blessing, the hymn moves from our Lord’s shining light to His grace, namely His favor which we do not deserve (Numbers 6:25).  Without God, we are dead in our sins (Romans 5:12).  Our creator God first created new life in us at Baptism (Romans 6:4).  Every time we repent of our sins and receive His absolution won for us on the Cross, He re-creates new life in us (Psalm 51:10; Ephesians 4:24).  God’s grace is like the morning dew, bringing moisture to dry places, causing new life to blossom and take root (Hosea 14:5). In these two stanzas we pray that our Lord would grace us with comfort and re-creation, that with zeal and joy we live the lives He has intended for us (Isaiah 45:8; Romans 12:11; Ephesians 2:1-10).  

The fourth and fifth stanzas anticipate the Parousia.  In the opening of the fourth stanza, Jesus is addressed as, “Thou Dayspring from on high.” Dayspring, an archaic word for sunrise, is a messianic term, recalling Malachi 4:2 and Luke 1:78.[i] (c.f. December 21 “O” Antiphon; LSB 357.6).  We pray with certain hope that at the Last Day, at God’s summons, we will rise again to a new and perfected life (Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  We pray that our Lord lead us through “this vale of tears” (Psalm 84:6; Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 7th Petition) to the New Jerusalem, and her eternal pure joy and perfect peace, fully reconciled and at one with Him, and basking in His eternal light and glory (Colossians 1:20; Revelation 7:9-17, 19:6-9, 21:3-4, 21:22-27).

Come, Thou Bright and Morning Star is included in the section of morning hymns in LSB.  This is very appropriate as we invoke God’s presence through our sacrifice of prayer first thing as we wake up (Psalm 5:3).  The hymn though is very appropriate for the Advent season as we reflect on our sinfulness, Jesus’ first advent to die on the Cross to forgive our sins and rise again to declare us right with the Father, His continual coming to us in Word and Sacrament to bring us His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, and His Parousia, when He will bring us to eternal life with Him.  We are thankful to God for your presence with us today, and pray His richest blessings on you as you receive His gifts in our midst.


[i] Luke 1:78 in the KJV reads, “Through the tender mercy of our God; Whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.”

LSB 960, Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old – Reformation

Hymn author and composer: Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546) – see the author/composer notes for LSB 655 at https://catalinalutheran.org/blog/2020/05/25/lsb-655-lord-keep-us-steadfast-in-your-word/ (accessed 25 October, AD 2021)

Hymn translator: Composite, committee that developed the 1941 TLH.

Hymn history:1

Wittenberg altarpiece of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), note, in the top center panel, Jesus presiding at the Lord’s Supper. Photo taken by Roni Grad
Recording of 10/31/2021 Study of Isaiah, Mighty Seer in Days of Old

Dr. Luther first reformed the Latin Mass in 1523, removing the false teaching of the Mass as a sacrifice to God and restoring the proper doctrine of the Mass as God’s service to us (Gottesdienst), in which we receive His gifts.2 In 1526, he developed the German Mass as a teaching service, “for the sake of the unlearned lay folk” who did not understand Latin.3 Dr. Luther wrote Isaiah Mighty Seer to be the Sanctus hymn in the German Mass.  Rather than translate the Sanctus from the Latin Mass, he wrote this hymn paraphrase of Isaiah 6:1-4, to show the original context of the “Holy Lord God of Sabaoth” phrase. He used the form of a Sequence, a prose or meter text sung from the late 8th century onward by the cantor and choir between the Epistle and Gospel readings, as a teaching tool to highlight the theme of the day.4 By adding this form in the Service of the Sacrament of the Altar, Dr. Luther was able to draw attention to the proper teaching about that which takes place in the Lord’s Supper.

Consider: Read Isaiah 6:1-7.  What might the church fathers have been thinking when they included the Sanctus in the Service of the Sacrament of the Altar?5 How does the Isaiah text support Dr. Luther’s (and the Lutheran Reformers’) teaching about the Mass (i.e. does the text speak of a work of man or a work of God)? How does the use of the Benedictus (“Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” – Psalm 118:26a; Matthew 21:9 [Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13]) support this teaching?6 (Note that Dr. Luther did not incorporate the Benedictus into this hymn, see below.)

Dr. Luther wrote the hymn in rhyming couplets of 10 syllables, a pattern which is preserved in the English translations in TLH, LW and LSB.7 He intended for the Pastor to elevate the Sacrament while the hymn was being sung, a practice that Pr. Morehouse continues at CLC.

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) wrote a setting of the Isaiah Mighty Seer, indicating its ongoing liturgical use in the aftermath of the early years of the Reformation. The Praetorius piece may be heard here: https://youtu.be/H8vI_b81aLw  (accessed 25 October, AD 2021; note the antiphonal singing of the Sanctus line Heilig ist Gott der Herre Zebaoth, “Holy is God the Lord of Sabaoth,” as described in Isaiah 6:3, note also that the Sanctus portion occupies a full 3 minutes of this 6 minute and 24 second piece).8  The hymn was sung in Bach’s Leipzig “on festival days and when there (were) many communicants.”9 The German text of the hymn appeared in Walther’s Hymnal (147) as a hymn for the Feast of the Holy Trinity.  Isaiah Mighty Seer first appeared in an English language LCMS hymnal in the 1941 TLH (249), also as a hymn for the Feast of the Holy Trinity.  As noted above, the translation was a composite that is continued in LSB (960) with some alterations.  An English translation by F. Samuel Janzow (1913-2001) was used in the 1982 LW (214).  Of note, in keeping with Dr. Luther’s original intent, the LW placed the hymn in the section of liturgical hymns.  This has been continued in LSB.

The alterations in LSB of the TLH text are as follows:
With flowing train that filled the Temple quite ➜ With robes that filled the temple courts with light
Above the throne were stately seraphim ➜ Above the throne were flaming seraphim
With twain they veiled their faces, as was meet ➜ With two they veiled their faces as was right
With twain in rev’rent awe they hid their feet ➜ With two they humbly hid their feet from sight
And with the other twain aloft they soared ➜ And with the other two aloft they soared
Behold, His glory filleth all the earth ➜ His glory fills the heavens and the earth

Dr. Luther adapted the hymn tune from a plainchant Sanctus used in the pre-Reformation church for Sundays in Advent and Lent.10 The chant tune appears to date back to at least the 14th century.  Of note, although Dr. Luther did not incorporate the Benedictus here, he kept the tune that accompanied it in the Latin liturgy, thus bringing it to mind for the members of the congregation.  Dr. Luther wrote Isaiah Mighty Seer in Lydian mode, a chant scale that begins on F and is similar to F-major but with a B natural rather than a B flat.  In the LCMS English language hymnals, the tune was transposed to D major, as this is easier for the congregation of today to sing.

Consider: Johann Walter (1496-1570), musical collaborator with Dr. Luther, who eventually became the first Lutheran Kantor (church musician), noted that in Isaiah Mighty Seer, Dr. Luther “fitted all the notes so masterfully and so well to the text…”11 Read Isaiah 6:3 and Matthew 21:9. Now sing, “Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!  His glory fills the heavens and the earth!” How do the notes themselves illustrate the Scripture texts and Dr. Luther’s teaching on the Mass?  How might you recall the Benedictus when singing this?

Hymn text:

Vocabulary: Seer (prophet, person who sees visions); Lofty (exalted); Splendor (magnificent appearance, root is from “shine”); Seraphim (H8314, from H8313, saraph, to burn); Veiled (covered); Humbly (in a way that shows a low estimate of one’s importance: humus – ground); Sabaoth (H6635, army hosts); Beam (horizontal structure supporting ceilings or floors); Lintel (horizontal structure above windows and doors supporting the wall above them); Enwrapped (wrapped around)

Reread Isaiah 6:1-4 and consider the words of the Hymn.  In what, “day of old” does this take place? Read Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Matthew 17:5 (Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Where is the Father in the Isaiah and the hymn texts? Read Exodus 28:33-34, 39:24-26 (parallel texts to the Hebrew for “train of his robe” in Isaiah 6:1, note specifically whose vestments are described); John 3:14, 12:41. Where is Jesus in the Isaiah and the hymn texts? Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.  Where is the Holy Spirit in the Isaiah and the hymn texts? Read Matthew 17:2 (Mark 9:3; Luke 9:29), and John 1:4-9, 8:12, 12:40-41. The LSB text specifically adds the detail, “with light” to, “filled the temple courts.” How might that be explained?  Reread the 5th and 6th measures of the hymn.  How does the text define, “Seraphim?”  Reread Isaiah 6:6-7.  On what basis does the LSB hymn text call them, “messengers?”  Read Exodus 33:20-23, Ezekiel 1:11 and reread Isaiah 6:2.  Why are God’s creatures, both men and angels, veiled in His presence?  Reread Isaiah 6:3 and read Revelation 4:8. What is the significance of the thrice-holy? Was Isaiah witnessing a one-time event? What does this mean for us when we sing the Sanctus (and in DS3 and DS4 the Benedictus)?  Reread Isaiah 6:4 and read Matthew 27:51, 28:2; John 12:16, 23, 21:19. Where was Jesus glorified? What natural event accompanied the manifestation of Jesus’ glory? How does this relate to the Lord’s Supper?

Consider: How is the Lord’s Supper trinitarian? What does God do with Isaiah in the aftermath of his vision (Isaiah 6:8-13)? What does God do with you in the aftermath of your receiving the Supper (consider the post-Communion collect)

End notes:

  1. Except where noted, information is from Thomas E. Lock, “Isaiah, mighty seer in days of old,” 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. 1568-1572.
  2. “… the mass is neither a sacrifice nor a good work … We do accept it as a sacrament, a testament, the blessing (as in Latin), the eucharist (as in Greek), the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Memorial, communion, or by whatever evangelical name you please, as long as it is not polluted by the name of sacrifice or work.” Martin Luther, in An Order of Mass and Communion for the Church at Wittenberg, AE 53:22. See also AC XXIV, Ap XXIV, SA II II and others.
  3. Martin Luther, The German Mass and Order of Service, AE 53:63.
  4. Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music, Principles and Implications (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017) p. 227. An example of a sequence may be seen in LSB 460.
  5. The Sanctus may have originated in North Africa around AD 200, see The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 331.  Its use appears to have begun in the West around AD 400, see E. J. Yarnold, SJ, “The Liturgy of the Faithful in the Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries,” in Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold SJ and Paul Bradshaw, eds. The Study of Liturgy, Revised Edition (London: SPCK and New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) p. 232.
  6. The Benedictus may have been initially added to the Sanctus in Syria between AD 300 and AD 350, see “Liturgy of the Faithful,” in Study of Liturgy, p. 243, n.29.
  7. The German text of the hymn may be found at https://hymnary.org/text/jesaia_dem_propheten_das_geschah (accessed 25 October, AD 2021).
  8. For an extensive analysis of how the Praetorius setting accentuates the text of the hymn and the Isaiah 6 text, see Anne Catherine Grimes, “The Intersection of Personal Faith and Compositional Craft in Selected Works of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)” DMA Diss. (University of Arizona, 2021) pp. 41-52. 
  9. Günther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and the Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis: CPH, 1984) p. 128.
  10. Luther’s Liturgical Music, p.231. Leaver points out that Dr. Luther worked on the German Mass during Advent, 1525.
  11. Quoted in Luther’s Liturgical Music, p. 62.