Sunday, January 16, 2011

As Christ, the Morning Star

The Epiphany season continues in many churches, with lessons about Christ revealing his glory to the world. The image of Jesus as the Morning Star comes from Revelation 22:16, and we know it from another popular hymn often sung during this season. This text is even earlier, and still appears in Lutheran hymnals.

The Savior sent from heaven,
Foretold by ancient seers,
By our Creator given,
In human form appears.
No sphere his light confining,
No star so brightly shining,
As Christ, our Morning Star.

O time of God appointed,
O bright and holy morn!
The Sovereign One anointed,
The Christ, the virgin-born,
Grim death to vanquish for us,
To open heav'n before us,
And bring us life again.

Awaken now our spirit
To know and love you more,
In faith to stand unshaken,
In spirit to adore,
That we, through this world moving,
Each glimpse of heaven proving,
May reap in fullness there.

Creator, here before you,
With God the Holy Ghost,
And Jesus, we adore you,
O pride of angel-host.
Before you mortals lowly
Cry "Holy, Holy, Holy,"
Eternal Trinity!

Elizabeth Cruciger, 1524
tr. Arthur Tozer Russell, 1851; alt.
Erfurt Enchiridion, 1524

Elizabeth Cruciger was the first Lutheran woman to write hymns. Born around 1500, she married Caspar Cruciger, a student of Martin Luther whom Luther encouraged and helped in various ways. Elizabeth also became a friend of Luther's wife Katherine. This text appeared in the Enchiridion, published in Erfurt in 1524, one of the first Protestant hymnals, and Luther later included it in some of his own hymn collections. It was first translated into English by Arthur Tozer Russell in his Psalms and Hymns (1851), an Anglican hymnbook.

The tune was selected by Cruciger hersself, but it was based on an older German folk tune often matched with the secular text Mein Freud mocht such wohl mehren. Like many other chorale melodies set down in the Enchiridion, it was used by Johann Sebastian Bach in some of his cantatas and organ works.

Two Years Ago: Wisdom eternal, brooding o'er creation

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