Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dearest Jesus, We Are Here

Here is another hymn for the Common time. This hymn marks the 50th post for this blog! I pray that this blog continues to grow, and will continue to reach new people each and every day! Thank you all for your support in my continuation of this project!

Title: Dearest Jesus, We are Here

Tune: Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier


Author: Benjamin Schmolck (21st December, 1672- 12th February, 1737), Trans: Catherine Winkworth (13th September, 1827- 1st July, 1878)

Composer: Johann R. Ahle

          This is a hymn that is chalked full of history, and has a few connections to the ever-famous J.S. Bach. It seems like most hymns written before Bach was born somehow make their way to the composer, but perhaps that is why he is so well known. “Dearest Jesus, We are Here,” was first published in Benjamin Schmolck's Heilige Flammen der himmlisch-gesinnten Seele (Striegau, now Strzegom, Poland, 1704) along with 49 more of his other hymns. Along with many other hymns, Catherine Winkworth (See “O Lord, How I Meet You”) had a hand in translating six of the seven stanzas (Winkworth omitted the 4th stanza), and publishing them in her Lyra Germanica, the second series, which was published in 1858 (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 265). In the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) this hymn took on serious alterations, leaving out the 4th and 5th stanzas of the original, and also relying on much of Winkworth's translation. The title “Dearest Jesus, We are Here” was translated by Matthias Loy (1828-1915) and was first published in the 1880 hymnal collection Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal. Born the son of a preacher, Benjamin Schmolck began his religious career early in his life.

          Born the son of Martin Schmolk, in Brauchitzchdorf in Selesia, B. Schmolck was allowed to give his first sermon at the age of 16 (Schmolkc's father was the pastor at the church in Brauchitzchdorf). After Schmolck had given his sermon, a Layperson by the name of Nicolaus Heinrich von Haugwitz was so enamored with Schmolck's preaching, that he offered him three hundred thaler (I was unable to find a currency translation to modern day) to study theology. After hearing Schmolck preach for a second time, von Haugwitz increased the amount of Schmolck's scholarship. Schmolck went on to study at the University of Leipzig, where he was heavily influenced by teachers such as Johann Olearius (See “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”). In 1697, during his last year of study at the University of Leipzig, Schmolck supported himself by selling some of his poetry to wealthy patrons in the town, helping to spread his reputation as a poet. Finally, after finishing his studies, Schmolck returned to Brauchitzchdorf in 1701, was ordained, and served as an assistant to his father. In 1702, he married a women named Anna Rosina Rehwald, and moved to Friedenskirche at Schweidnitz, where he would remain for the rest of his life. After the Thirty Years' war, the area of Schweidnitz had been named a predominately Catholic area, making it very difficult for Schmolck to build a church.

          Because of the Catholic rule at the time, Schmolck, as well as two other clergymen, were forced to hold services for nearly 36 different villages in one small church that was outside of the city walls. During this time, the churches were operating under strict rules by the Catholic church, including a rule that said no pastor was able to offer communion to an ill person, unless they consulted one of the local Roman Catholic Priests first. Over the last years of his life, Schmolck worked hard, holding several positions in the church, including Pastor Primarius (he was named to this position in 1714). Because of his hard work, Schmolck suffered a stroke of paralysis in 1730, which is speculated to have been caused by exhaustion. Though he was able to go back to work as an officiant, Schmolck never was able to regain the use of his right hand again. After preaching for five more years after his paralysis, Schmolck gave his last sermon in 1735. He suffered two more strokes of paralysis, as well as a cataract over the last few years of his life. For a time, Schmolck recovered somewhat from his cataracts thanks to a successful surgery, but when it returned, he was not able to recover. Schmolck was finally condemned to spend the rest of his life on bed rest, until finally he was given a note of release on 12th February, 1737, which was the day of his anniversary, as well as the day of his death.

          The tune “Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier” holds some interesting history. The tune itself is often associated with Tobias Clausnitzer's sermon hymn “Dearest Jesus, at Your Word,” which was written nearly nine years before Schmolck was even born. The tune written by Johann R. Ahle, was originally published with an Advent hymn written by Franz Joachim Burmeister, in Ahle's Neue geistliche, auf die Sonntage durch's gantze Jahr gerichtete (Muhlhausen, 1664). Johann Rudolph Ahle is not your typical hymn composer. In his lifetime, Ahle served as a musician, as well as a mayor. Born in Muhlhausen, Ahle would go on to study at Goettingen, and Erfurt (Westermeyer, 267). Ahle studied theology at the University of Erfurt, but he also served as the Cantor of St. Andreas Church as well as in it's elementary school. Ahle is known for having written a manual for better choral singing as well as being an organist. In 1650, Ahle was married, and in 1654, he became the organist at St. Blasius Church in Muhlhausen. The following year, Ahle was elected as a member of the city council, and in 1661, he was elected mayor of Muhlhausen. Ahle would hold both of these positions until his death in 1673 (Schmolck was only a year old at the time). After Ahle's death, his son, Johann Georg Ahle (1651-1706) became organist at Muhlhausen, and after J.G. Ahle's death, J.S. Bach held the position for only one short year (1707-1708).

The Text:

     (1) Blessed Jesus, here we stand,
Met to do as Thou hast spoken,
And this child at Thy command
Now we bring to Thee, in token
That to Christ it here is given,
For of such shall be His Heaven.

     (2) Yes, Thy warning voice is plain,
And we fain would keep it duly,
"He who is not born again,
Heart and life renewing truly,
Born of water and the Spirit,
Will My kingdom ne'er inherit."

     (3) Therefore hasten we to Thee,
Take the pledge we bring, oh take it!
Let us here Thy glory see,
And in tender pity make it
Now Thy child, and leave it never--
Thine on earth, and Thine for ever.

     (4) Turn the darkness into light,
To Thy grace receive and save it;
Heal the serpent's venom'd bite,
In the font where now we lave it;
Let Thy Spirit pure and lowly
Banish thought or taint unholy.

     (5) Make it, Head, Thy member now,
Shepherd, take Thy lamb and feed it,
Prince of Peace, its peace be Thou,
Way of life, to Heaven oh lead it,
Vine, this branch may nothing sever,
Grafted firm in Thee for ever.
Now upon Thy heart it lies,
What our hearts so dearly treasure,
  1. Heavenward lead our burden'd sighs,
    Pour Thy blessing without measure,
    Write the name we now have given,
    Write it in the book of Heaven.

My Take on the Hymn:

          One of the most important rites as a Christian, is that of Baptism. The Baptism is a way of bringing us into the light of Christ, and symbolizes a rebirth, or even a birth into Christ. At the time of Baptism, we are washed clean and given a new start. In the second stanza, we see “Born of water and the Spirit, Will My kingdom ne'er inherit." This is in reference to John 3:5, because unless we are washed clean with water, and born of the spirit, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Though there is a lot of theological debate surrounding baptism, I would prefer to stay on the side of what baptism means as an adult. As a Christian who has been baptized, we are reminded daily that we are washed clean, and our spirit has been sealed by the sign of the cross, given on us by water. The imagery presented by water fits in to the imagery of what God truly is. Water can bring life, it refreshes us when we need it, it cleans us when we need it, and it can provide some good old-fashioned fun, but water can also be very dangerous, and can be seen as wrathful. By being born of water, we are born clean, and by being born of the spirit, we will always be cleansed with the water from the river of life that descends from Christ's throne in Revelations. Baptism does not necessarily open the door to Christ, but it acts as a door stop that will always hold the door open for us, so that if/when we leave God, we will always be welcomed back, because we have been given life through baptism!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video, and follow along!


Julian, John. "Blessed Jesus, Here We Stand." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.

Julian, John. "Benjamin Schmolck." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.

Julian, John. "Catherine Winkworth." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.

Julian, John. "LIEBSTER JESU." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.

Westermeyer, Paul. "Holy Baptism." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 265-67. Print.

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