19 November 2009

The King

of the chorales, is our hymn of the day for this coming Sunday, the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Pastor Nicolai wrote both text and tune as his parish was being decimated by a great plague. With no family not in mourning, he wrote a book on the joy that is ours in Christ, the joy of everlasting life, and appended to that book three poems, of which this is generally regarded as the greatest. Truly, here is a wondrous fulfillment of Samson's riddle: "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet." When death was like a lion devouring his parish, Pr. Nicolai had the faith to see the lion as DEAD itself, and to bring forth from the lion's corpus this divine honey, this sublime text and tune. Also greatly beloved is Bach's fabulous setting of the second stanza of this hymn:

"Wake, awake, for night is flying,"
The watchmen on the heights are crying;
"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
"Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes, awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care
Yourselves prepare
To meet the Bridegroom, who is near!"

Zion hears the watchmen singing
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious;
Her star is ris'n, her light is come.
Now come, Thou Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son,
Hail! Hosanna!
We enter all
The wedding hall
To eat the Supper at Thy call.

Now let all the heav'ns adore Thee,
Let saints and angels sing before Thee
With harp and cymbals' clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where, dwelling with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No eye has seen the light,
No ear has heard the might
Of Thy glory!
Therefore will we
Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee!
LSB 516


Chris said...

Not to be a smart ass but if this is the King of Chorales, what's the queen?

William Weedon said...

The Queen is his companion piece, How Lovely Shines. Appended to the same volume. He wrote BOTH of those texts and tunes. Unbelievable.

Rev. Shane R. Cota, SSP said...

Wachet auf is one of my top 5 favorite hymns. The Bach cantata is heavenly. Wachet auf was one of the hymn sung at A.C. Piepkorn's funeral as well. I believe that was mentioned in an old issue of Bride of Christ that re-printed his funeral sermon. I'm glad that LSB corrected the translation to make the reference to the Lord's Supper more obvious.

William Weedon said...

Amen on the correction. I didn't know that it was sung at the Blessed AC's funeral, but I can't imagine a more fitting hymn for the occasion.

Anonymous said...

When did the Parable of the Ten Virgins become the Gospel reading for the Last Sunday of the Church Year?

Was this Parable assigned to the Last Sunday before or after this hymn was written?

Is this assigned reading peculiar to Lutheranism for this Last Sunday of the Church Year?


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Kantor Beethe and I are doing TLH 609 for next Thursday's Time Out, as the music for LSB 516 is not public domain.

William Weedon said...

Sweet, Dan!

IggyAntiochus said...

Anon: I believe the Parable of the Ten Virgins is part of the historic one-year lectionary, and normally is the reading for the Last Sunday of the Church Year (aka Sunday of the Fulfillment or Christ the King Sunday).

I have mostly worked with the 3-year lectionary as a parish musician, so I will let the experts on the 1-year leave any corrections.

Pr Weedon: First, LOVING the music posts today! Second, what is the third poem of this work? Has it been translated? Only the two mentioned appear in LSB.

christl242 said...

This is the, I mean THE piece that has been rooted in my Lutheran sensibility from before I can remember.

Wachet auf . . .

It still sends waves of joy into my heart.


William Weedon said...


This text for last Sunday goes back a bit in Lutheran history. Luther himself suggested the beatitudes for this Sunday, but the ten virgins reading eventually triumphed among Lutherans (apparently ppearing first in Helmstadt 1580) according to Reed.