Sunday, September 13, 2015

Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth (September 13, 1827 - July 1, 1878) is best known for her translations of German hymns into English.  She contributed to at least three major collections: Lyra Germanica (1855), Chorale Book for England (1863, and Christian Singers of Germany (1869). In our time, she is regarded as the most significant single individual to make the heritage of German hymns known to the English-speaking world. A memorial stone on the wall of Bristol Cathedral commends her for "open(ing) a new source of light, consolation, and strength in many thousand homes."

Winkworth was also active in the social causes of the Victorian era, particularly in the area of women's education. While living in Bristol, she served as secretary for the Clifton Association for Higher Education for Women, and supported the Clifton High School for Girls, founded in 1877. She also served as governor of the Red Maids' School.

Today's hymn, originally written in seventeenth-century Germany, was by Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684).  Nearly two hundred years later it was translated by Winkworth, and two hundred years after that it will still be sung.

Blessèd Jesus, at thy Word
We are gathered all to hear thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
Now to seek and love and fear thee,
By thy teachings sweet and holy,
Drawn from earth to love thee solely.

All our knowledge, sense and sight
Lie in deepest gloom enshrouded,
'Til thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, thyself impart!
Light of light, from God proceeding,
Open thou our ears and heart;
Help us by thy Spirit’s pleading;
Hear the cry the earth upraises;
Hear and bless our prayers and praises.

Tobias Clausnitzer, 1663;
tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1858; alt.
Johann R. Ahle, 1664

This hymn is still widely sung across denominations and appears in many newer hymnals. As Winkworth herself wrote in the preface to Lyra Germanicahymns like this can "make us feel afresh what a deep and true Communion of Saints exists among all the children of God in different churches and lands."

Seven Years Ago: Catherine Winkworth

Six Years Ago: Catherine Winkworth

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