Monday, October 1, 2012

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Here is another post, sorry for the delay, but school work is just as important. This is my first hymn with my new book, the Hymnal Companion for the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal. 

Title: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Tune: Herzlich Tut Mich Verlangen

Meter: 76.76. D

Composer: 16th century German Melody, Adapt. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Arr. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Author: Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Based on Arnulf of Louvain, d. 1250 (attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153)

                Paul Gerhardt was born in Grayfenhaynischen, Germany in 1607, which is a small town just outside of Wittenberg. When he was 21 years old, Gerhardt began school at the University of Wittenberg, where he stayed until he was 35 years old. It was the year 1642 and Gerhardt was said to have left Wittenberg to go to Berlin to be a tutor for a number of years in the house of the Advocate Andreas Barthold, where he met his wife Anna Maria (they married in 1655), who was the daughter of Barthold. During his time in Berlin, he began to preach around the area and eventually, he accepted a call in 1651 to be the Lutheran Probst (head Pastor) and Mittenwalde, near Berlin, which was received after a glowing recommendation was given by the Berlin Clergy. Gerhardt remained at his post in Mittenwalde until 1657, when he returned to Berlin to work as the third Diaconus of St. Nicholas’s Church in Berlin. After changing his position in the church, Gerhardt ran in to political trouble with the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm (who was a member of the reformed church), and the Berlin Clergy. This political unrest would cause Gerhardt to be deposed of his position in the church in 1666, but he would return to work in the church once again as the Archdiaconus of Lubben in 1669 and remained there for the rest of his life. Though Gerhardt’s life was not a stable one, with the loss of four children (only one of his five survived past infancy), the death of his wife during the few years he was unemployed in Berlin, and a calling in Lubben that was less than supportive of his preaching, he was still known as one of the greatest Lutheran hymn writers next to Luther himself.
                The hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” is a lesson in translations by itself. The history of this hymn begins back in the late 16th century when the traditional language was Latin. Eventually, however, thanks to the work of one Martin Luther, the Catholic Church was reformed and no longer had control over the mass (which was traditionally done in Latin, so no one, besides those who were educated, could understand the mass), and the German language became more commonly used in the mass settings, but, was also being used in a new form of worship which would later be called “Lutheran.” Later, as the Lutheran Church grew more and more popular, the language had to be changed once again, this time from German to English. The original text to this hymn can be found in the Opera Omnia, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, though it is attributed to him with an asterisk of sorts. The Opera Omnia is often times attributed to another man as well, Arnulf of Louvain, but it has never been proven with complete certainty who wrote the text. Though the text does not have a known “author” to speak of, but it has been read and translated by several people. The text for this hymn is a small part of a larger work that would later come to be part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.
 “Salve, mundi salutare” was originally called Rhythmica Oratio ad Unum Quodlibet Membrorum Christi Patientis et a Cruce Pendentis which loosely translates to “Rhythmic Prayer to the Various Members of Christ’s Body Suffering and Hanging on the Cross.” This text had seven sections for each day of the week before Easter Sunday, or more commonly known as Holy Week. Each section was supposed to represent a different part of Christ’s body and was written in the following order: feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and Face. Each section was a stanza containing ten five-line stanzas of eight syllables each (Westermeyer, 155), with the exception of the last stanza, which contained fourteen five-line stanzas of eight syllables (Westermeyer, 155). Finally, we come to the point at which Paul Gerhardt comes into contact with the text to translate. The Work was set to music in the form of seven cantatas called Membra Jesu Nostri, which was written by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), who came in contact with a young J.S. Bach. The last cantata, or “Salve caput cruentatum,” in Latin, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” in German and “O Sacred Head,” contains ten stanzas and is considered to be the most well-known of all the cantatas. The final stanza was published in the 1656 collection Praxis Pietatis Melica, by Johann Cruger, and was translated to English and published by James Waddell Alexander (1804-1859) in The Christian Lyre (Published in New York, 1831). The Translation used in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship uses a translation relying heavily on the version translated by Waddell.
The tune “Herzlich Tut Mich Verlangen” was originally paired with this text in 1656 when it was published in Praxis Pietatis Melica, which gave it a second name, Passion Chorale, though it was not paired with a sacred text until it was published with the funeral text of Cristoph Knoll in 1613 after the death of the composer. The tune was composed originally as a court song, written by the Renaissance composer, Hans Leo Hassler, and was published in his collection Lustgarten Neuer teutscher Gesang (published in 1601). The tune was also used along with a serious text based on the penitential psalm, Psalm 6, published in 1625 (Ach, Herr, mich armen Sunder,).  Hassler was well known for composing several different collections of German Motets (1591 and 1601), as well as chorale motets, Psalmen und christliche Gesänge (1607), and a collection of simpler hymn settings, Kirchengesänge, Psalmen und geistliche Lieder (1608).Hassler was known for being a Lutheran composer, but was known to have written several hymns for the Roman Catholic Church.
Hassler took a step towards bridging the gap between “Sacred,” and “Serious Secular,” music.  The original tune had a five part setting as a love song to “Maria”- “Mein G’must ist mir verwirret, das macht ein Jungrau zart” (“My heart is all excited, a sweet young maid is near”)-whose name was spelled out in an acrostic by the first letter of each stanza of the text (Westermeyer, p 157). Though this hymn is usually sang as a congregational hymn, it was composed in two different manners, one in a rhythmic pattern, and one with an isometric pattern. Though the rhythmic version is most commonly used version and was composed first. The isometric versions of chorales usually lack rhythmic interest, but contain many different examples of harmonic interest. One such occurrence of the isometric version is founded from a section of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, which turns the hymn into a chorale type as opposed to a congregational hymn.  Another very uncommon use of the tune came from Paul Simon, who used it for his “American Tune,” after Art Garfunkel introduced it to him through one of Bach’s harmonizations.

The Text:
1.            O sacred Head, now wounded,
                with grief and shame weighed down,
                now scornfully surrounded
                with thorns, thine only crown:
                how pale thou art with anguish,
                with sore abuse and scorn!
                How does that visage languish
                which once was bright as morn!

2.            What thou, my Lord, has suffered
                was all for sinners' gain;
                mine, mine was the transgression,
                but thine the deadly pain.
                Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
                'Tis I deserve thy place;
                look on me with thy favor,
                vouchsafe to me thy grace.

3.            What language shall I borrow
                to thank thee, dearest friend,
                for this thy dying sorrow,
                thy pity without end?
                O make me thine forever;
                and should I fainting be,
                Lord, let me never, never
                outlive my love for thee.

My Take on the Hymn:
                This hymn is a very stark reminder of what Christ sacrificed for us, so that we may live a life free of sin and free of the grasp the death maintains on those who fear the grave. The hymn does not use any allusions, but is rather strait forward in saying that Christ was shamed by us and was punished for and by our sins. Christ’s love for us is incredible, not only because he bore the cross for us, but because even in the darkest moment of his life, the moment when we shouted for Christ to be crucified, he thought of us and asked God to forgive is, for we did not know what we were doing. God’s love is never failing, and the fact the He sent his only son to the cross so that we may live free only augments the reality of His love for us.

The Hymn:
If you can't read music, just click on the youtube link and follow along!


"O Sacred Head Now Wounded." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

Westermeyer, Paul. "Holy Week." Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal Companion. Ed. Paul Westermeyer. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 155-57. Print.

"Holy Week." Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress, 2006. 351. Print.

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