Friday, January 04, 2008

Beginning, Middle, and Ending

This morning's sunrise (first picture) and this evening's sunset (next two pictures) brought a beautiful old hymn to mind. It's one I've sung many times over in choirs, one that has a particular academy choir tour to Puerto Rico come to mind whenever I hear it. Paul Gerhardt's words (set to Jane Marshall's hymn tune) give me pause to think each time I hear them, particularly the line about how, with God, our days--beginning, middle, and ending--can hasten our journey towards heaven. It's a beautiful piece, one whose author has an interesting history gleaned from http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/10/24.html:

"One of the great treasures of the Christian church is its hymns, and one of the greatest contributions to that treasure is that of the early Lutheran writers, beginning with Martin Luther and reaching a peak with J.S.Bach. Paul (Paulus) Gerhardt was born in 1607 near Wittenberg in Germany, and studied theology at the University of Wittenberg from 1628 to 1642. In 1651 he was ordained and made pastor of a church in Brandenburg, near Berlin. In 1657 he became third assistant at St Nicholas Church in Berlin. In his sermons, he maintained the Lutheran position against the Calvinists. He refused to sign a pledge not to bring theological argument into his sermons, and was deposed by Frederick William of Brandenberg-Prussia in 1666. His wife and four of his children died. In 1669 he was made archdeacon of Luebben, and died there 7 June 1676.

"Despite personal suffering and the horrors of the Thirty Years War, Gerhardt wrote over 130 hymns, expressing both orthodox doctrines and emotional warmth in response to them. His work, like that of Heerman cited above, is counted by hymnologists as transitional between the Confessional and the Pietistic periods of Lutheran hymnody. He has been called he greatest of Lutheran hymn-writers."

Awake, my heart, and render to God thy sure defender,
Thy maker, thy preserver, a song of love and fervor.
Confirm my deeds and guide me. My day, with thee beside me,
My beginning, middle ending will all be upward tending.
My heart shall be thy dwelling, with joy and gladness swelling;
thy word is my nurture; given to bring me on toward heaven.

3 comments:

Ruth said...

What beautiful words to a hymn I haven't heard before. I like knowing the background of hymns as it really does add to the meaning of the words.

Britt-Arnhild said...

Beautiful.

Thanks for this information about Gerhardt.

Hymns are very important to me. I wrote yesterday about my friend who is a hymn writer :-)

sunny said...

What a very lovely post!