Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Lord, How I Meet You

Here is another hymn for the rapidly closing season of Advent!

Title: O Lord, How Shall I Meet You

Tune: Wie Soll Ich Dich Empfangen

Meter: Doubled

Composer: Johann Cruger (April 9, 1598- February 23, 1662)

Author: Paul Gerhardt (March 12, 1607- May 27, 1676) tr. Composite

                Originally written in German with ten stanzas, “O Lord, How Shall I meet You” was published in 1653 in Cristoph Runge’s D.M. Luthers und anderer vornehmen geistreichen und felehrtern Manner geistliche Lieder und Psalmen, in which the composer of the tune, Johann Cruger, was the musical editor. The translation that can be found in the Evangelical Book of Lutheran Worship can be traced back to the same translation in The Lutheran Hymnal published in 1941. Though that particular text contains several different alterations too it, it seems to be very similar to the translation done by Catherine Winkworth (to learn more about Catherine Winkworth from a previous post, click Here), which was published in her 1863 collection The Chorale Book for England. The topic of the hymn is welcoming God who has come to set us free from our gloom, and rejoicing in his presence.
                Paul Gerhardt was born near Wittenberg, Germany, where he studed at the Furstenchule at Grimma, and eventually studied at the University of Wittenberg in 1628. During the early years of his life, Gerhardt suffered through the trials and the trauma of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Though he was not ordained until 1651, Gerhardt started preaching around the age of 30 in Berlin. In the same year he was ordained, he took orders as the pastor of a church in Mittenwalde Germany, in the vicinity near Wittenberg. Throughout his life, Gerhardt had troubles, suffering through political unrest, as well as violence that would cost him the family home in which he grew up in. In 1637, Gerhardt’s home in the town of Grafenhayniches (his father had been the mayor of the town) was set on fire by Swedish Soldiers. The family home was completely destroyed, along with his family’s possessions and his family’s church. Because of the theological unrest, Gerhardt was forced to enter into some of the “squabbles” of the times, when his conscious would not allow him to accede to the Calvinist demands of the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm. Because of his disagreement with Wilhelm, Gerhardt was removed from his post in 1666. Three years later, in 1669, Gerhardt was named the pastor at the church in Lubben an der Srpree, where he served for the remainder of his life. Though he remained at the post for 10 years, the members of his congregation were not supportive of him or his ideals.
                The tune “Wie Soll Ich Dich Empfangen” was written by Johann Cruger, who was the other half (Paul Gerhardt being the first half) in what many considered one of the church’s partnerships of text and tune writers, of pastor and musicians (Westermeyer, p 5). Johann Cruger met Paul Gerhardt, when Gerhardt was a tutor in Berlin, and the two of them became good friends. The two of them collaborated, and thus this tune was written to go along with this particular text. The tune is named for the first line of text in the original German translation, and was published in 1653. Cruger helped introduce Gerhardt’s hymns to the public by publishing them in his Praxis PietatisMelica, which is considered to be the most important hymn collection to be published in the 17th century. Published in its first edition in 1644, the collection was expanded and published with more than fifty different editions over the next century, long after Cruger had passed away. Unlike Luther, Gerhardt’s texts along with Cruger’s tunes were very smooth and connected.
                Born the son of an innkeeper in Prussia, Cruger studied in Regensburg with one of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Students, Paul Homberger (c. 1560-1643). Eventually, in 1620, Cruger began studying at the University of Wittenberg, but two short years later, and for the next forty years of his life, Cruger served as the Cantor in the St. Nicholas Church in Berlin as well as the director of music in the Gymnasium of the Grey Cloister, the College of St. Nicholas (Westermeyer, p 5). During his lifetime, Cruger wrote at least 71 different tunes, and most of which were written for Paul Gerhardt. Though Cruger was known for his collection, Praxis Pietatis Melica, he also worked on a number of different collections including his Newes vollkomliches Gesangbuch Augsbergischer Confession, published in 1640, which is the predecessor to the Praxis Pietatis Melica. In this publication, most of the chorale melodies were arranged with figured bass (Westermeyer, p 6). This helped to emphasize the newly found importance of harmony and of the organ in congregational singing, a fairly new phenomenon in the reforming era of the church. Cruger’s definition of music is “the science of artfully and judiciously combining and inflecting harmonic intervals, which make a concentus of diverse sounds. This definition can be directly contrasted by Augustine’s definition of music, which is “how to make controlled variations of sound in the right way.” Both definitions can be considered for the glory of God, but for Cruger, the harmony is central which explains the role he played in introducing or at least supporting the incoming practice of accompanying the congregation with the organ. The practice of accompanying the congregation with Organ took many centuries to catch on, even in the time of J.S. Bach, and well into the 19th century, many congregations were singing in unaccompanied unison.
The Text:
(1)    O Lord, how shall I meet you,
How welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
My hope, my heart's delight!
Oh, kindle, Lord most holy,
Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
All that may please you best.
(2)    Your Zion strews before you
Green boughs and fairest palms;
And I too will adore you
With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
For you with praises new
And from your name shall never
With hold the honor due.
(3)    I lay in fetters, groaning;
You came to set me free.
I stood, my shame bemoaning;
You came to honor me.
A glorious crown you give me,
A treasure safe on high
That will not fail or leave me
As earthly riches fly.
(4)    Love caused your incarnation;
Love brought you down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling,
That led you to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race.
(5)    Rejoice, then, you sad-hearted,
Who sit in deepest gloom,
Who mourn your joys departed
And tremble at your doom.
Despair not; he is near you,
There, standing at the door,
Who best can help and cheer you
And bids you weep no more.
(6)    He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to his foes,
A light of consolations
And blessed hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth your beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.

My Take on the Hymn:
                This hymn is perfect for the joy that comes with expecting the coming of Jesus, and the wonder that comes along with waiting for his love to arrive! Though the hymn is an advent hymn, it does cover many topics of Christ, including when Christ would leave this world. The voice of the text is one that is humbled and is one that comes from an introspective point of view. During this time of Advent, it is important for us to look inside and see what it is we can do to honor and worship Christ. Sometimes, it is as simple as asking Christ in prayer to show you how, but sometimes, we need to sit back and listen to the words that Christ is telling us through our lives. As the third stanza says, Christ will always come to people in their darkest hour, and he will raise those people up to the glory that is only possible through Christ. God has a funny way of taking us from our bootstraps, throwing us up in the air, and helping us to land back on our feet again. As humans, we are messy. We don’t have an easy life, we don’t have simple solutions to simple problems, and we don’t always have everything figured out, but that is why Christ came. Christ came so that we can trust that God will help us through our times of trial, and that we will always have a place to turn when we are in the darkest parts of our lives.

The Hymn:
If you cannot read music, just play the Youtube video and follow along!


Julian, John. "Ah! Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.
Julian, John. "WIE SOLL ICH DICH EMPFANGEN." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.
Julian, John. "Paul Gerhardt." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.
"O Lord, How Shall I Meet You." O Lord, How Shall I Meet You. Lutheran Hymnal, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2012.
Westermeyer, Paul. "O Lord, How Shall I Greet Thee." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 5-6. Print.


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