Music Monday: October 24, 2016


Music Monday: Preparing for Reformation Day

One of Martin Luther’s great contributions to the Church was the restoration of hymn-singing to the people of God.

A favorite album in my collection that I love to listen to this time of year was released by Concordia Publishing House; it’s called Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth. It combines wonderful sacred music with quotes from the Reformer about God’s magnificent gift of music.

Highly recommended.

• • •

Tr. Composite

Luther based this rendition on a popular Latin hymn from the 11th century. One can sense the turmoil and danger Luther felt in the tumultuous days of the Reformation — this is a common theme in his hymns and a reason he looked regularly to the Psalms for his inspiration. We also see the spiritual tumult in his own soul as he sought peace with God.

In the very midst of life snares of death surround us;
Who shall help us in the strife lest the foe confound us?
Thou only, Lord, Thou only!
We mourn that we have greatly erred,
That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.
Holy and righteous God! Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all merciful Savior! Eternal Lord God!
Save us lest we perish in the bitter pangs of death.
Have mercy, O Lord!

In the midst of death’s dark vale pow’rs of hell o’ertake us.
Who will help when they assail, who secure will make us?
Thou only, Lord, Thou only!
Thy heart is moved with tenderness,
Pities us in our distress.
Holy and righteous God! Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all merciful Savior! Eternal Lord God!
Save us from the terror of the fiery pit of hell.
Have mercy, O Lord!

In the midst of utter woe when our sins oppress us,
Where shall we for refuge go, where for grace to bless us?
To Thee, Lord Jesus, only!
Thy precious blood was shed to win
Full atonement for our sin.
Holy and righteous God! Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all merciful Savior! Eternal Lord God!
Lord, preserve and keep us in the peace that faith can give.
Have mercy, O Lord!

• • •

Tr. Catherine Winkworth

This has been one of Luther’s most popular hymns over the generations. It was written later in his life, 1541 or 1542, and the original words reflect his fear of an impending Muslim invasion in which he believed the papacy complicit. The first stanza originally included this line: “Restrain the murderous pope and turk.”

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

• • •

Lord God, We Sing Your Praise
Tr. F. Samuel Janzow
Setting by Richard Hillert, published by Concordia Pub. House

Though this is a contemporary musical setting of Luther’s Te Deum paraphrase, it evokes something of the personal and household use of Luther’s songs. Here, you can get a sense of how Luther and his family and guests might have sung together as part of their household worship. Or, alternatively, how the congregation might have joined the choir antiphonally in the church’s worship service.

Lord God, we sing Your praise; Lord God, our thanks we raise.
Father eternal, true, all creation worships You.
All angels and heav’nly throngs serve Your glory with their songs.
All cherubim and seraphim with soaring voices sing the hymn:
Holy is God our Lord, Holy is God our Lord,
Holy is God our Lord, the Lord of Sabaoth.

Your glory, might, eternity fill heav’n and earth with majesty.
The twelve apostles raise their voice, the holy prophets, too, rejoice.
Armies of noble martyrs throng to glorify You, God, in song.
The holy Church throughout the world keeps Your high glory’s praise unfurled.
To God the Father on the throne, to You, only-begotten Son,
To You, the Spirit, comfort true, we bring our praise and worship due.

O King of glory, blessed One, You are the Father’s only Son.
From a virgin You took Your birth to save mankind in all the earth.
You trod on death for its defeat that Your own at Your throne might meet.
You rule at the Father’s right hand with equal glory and command.
You will come back to earth again to judge with majesty all men.

O Lord, then in the final flood save those You bought with Your own blood.
Bring us to heav’n to celebrate with all those who Your help await.
Save us, Lord, with Your healing glance, and bless Your own inheritance.
Watch over us and guard our day, raise us to glory, Lord, we pray.
To You our daily praise we bring, to Your name constant honor sing.

Guard us, O Lord, we humbly pray, and keep us safe from sin today.
O Lord, have mercy on us all, have mercy on us when we call.
Lord, turn us toward Your kindly face, our hope is only in Your grace.
Lord, on You we build all our trust, let us not perish in the dust. Amen.

24 thoughts on “Music Monday: October 24, 2016

  1. pilgrim,
    Lutherans do not deny the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. Most do however take issue with Transubstantiation on the grounds that it answers the question of ‘how’ the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, and does so by using Aristotelian categories.(Substance and Accidens) The Reformed also attempt to answer this question with Platonic Categories. (The sign, and the thing signified) Lutherans at their best do not answer the question of ‘how’ (Scripture also does not answer this question) We concentrate on the ‘what.’ (Body, Blood, bread, wine) The real rub is that we deny the Sacrifice of the Mass.


  2. Oh man… I love a lot of the music attributed to Luther, but eish he hadn’t been so focused on hell, demons, and eternal torment (as in A Mighty Fortress… and in the 1st piece you cited, CM).

    But terror of hell is, like it or not, one of the things that drove him throughout his life. 😦


  3. Richard, I think statues of Luther can be found on Lutheran college campuses, and in public places associated with his life in Germany.

    Like you, I would find a statue of him in a church to be awfully weird.


  4. pilgrim, there actually *are* some Lutherans who believe in transubstantiation (including some Missouri Synod churches on the West Coast).

    Robert F is correct, though the term we use is “Sacramental Union.” Christ isnpresent “in, with and under” the bread and wine. Luther used an analogy of a horseshoe thrust into a fire. When it’s taken out, it’s impossible to separate the metal from the heat that infuses it.

    Fwiw, I’m a lifelong Lutheran, though I spent considerable time among Catholics from my mid-teens to late 20s, even living in a small convent for over a year while in undergraduate school. I didn’t convert, but I came to deeply appreciate much about the kind of Christianity practiced by the Catholics I knew, who were very open and ecumenical. (This was during the heyday of Vaticsn II.)


  5. No, this is not the case that Lutherans do not have a high view of the Lord’s Supper. They are very faithful believers in the Eucharist, in the Presence of Our Lord in Holy Communion in the way that their theology recognizes as meaningful.

    Please don’t advertise yourself a ‘Catholic’. The truth is, the Catholic Church respects people of other denominations as members of the Body of Christ, if they are baptized Christians. And the Catholic Church is drawing nearer to recognizing fully Luther’s contributions to the whole Church (finally).

    Please don’t blame EWTN for your information. I also watch EWTN and I have not heard what you are conveying taught there. I believe at best you have misunderstood much. I hope you will become reconciled to other Christian people who are from different ‘branches of the family’ because that is the wish of Our Lord, that we seek unity with them where possible, and respect with them as our brothers and sisters always.

    I’m sorry is I sound strident. And I’m sorry is I misunderstood your statement about Mary. Please forgive me. Please, please, don’t attack our brothers and sisters who are dear to the heart of Christ. And BTW, please know that Catholics also pray with Jews and Muslims. So maybe it would help to understand just how large we see the Holy Gospel, the Good News, to be in our Church . . . . . and how we honor the good will of all human persons who live in the dignity of good conscience before their Creator and make effort to do what is right as God gives them the light to see it.

    God Bless


  6. Thank you all for your thoughtful replies, I learned a lot. I will be more careful to not apply what I hear in general to specific applications. Thank you for your patience with me!


  7. My brain hurts. Arguing whether it’s really his blood or representative of his blood is something I’m sure he’d roll over in his grave if he were still there.


  8. Pilgrim, I’m glad you’ve come. We are a community that welcomes Catholics, Orthodox, and Christians of all tribes, as well as those with no faith who want to enter into conversation on the topics we raise.

    Luther would be quite surprised when you say he thought the Lord’s Supper was only a memorial. He had some pretty intense battles with others, particularly another reformer named Zwingli, on that subject. He insisted on the clear words of the NT: this is my body/blood.” Unlike Catholics, Lutherans do not emphasize the elements “becoming” Christ’s body and blood in the Mass, but recognize that they “are” the body and blood of Christ by God’s Word.

    Also, one of the major reasons I began to follow the Lutheran tradition is that our congregation celebrates the Lord’s Table each week. It is true that some Lutheran congregations vary in the frequency, but there is a strong tradition in Lutheranism itself that the divine service includes both Word and Table.


  9. pilgrim, Lutherans emphatically do believe in the “Real Presence” (though they do not subscribe to transubstantiation: Lutherans generally believe that Christ is totally present and received in Holy Communion (many [not all] would say his body and blood are present and received in the sacrament of Holy Communion, though they do not believe the elements become his body and blood), many or most celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday and at other Festival days, and EWTN is either getting it wrong or you are misunderstanding what they’re saying.

    Btw, CM would be among the last Protestants to accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary; in fact, I can’t imagine him saying or thinking such a thing. You picked the wrong Protestant on whom to exact your tit-for-tat (I know Catholics are accused of worshiping Mary, I wondered how Lutherans might handle the same question.).


  10. Christiane,
    I’m currently Catholic, having converted from being an Episcopalian six years ago. I didn’t say Catholics worshiped Mary, I said they are accused of doing so by many Protestants.

    From my understanding from listening to the Coming Home programs on EWTN, Lutherans do not believe in the Real Presence, transubstantiation, that the bread and wine become the body and blood. They believe that the Lords Supper is merely a memorial of the event. Plus, I believe they do the Lord’s Supper maybe once a month instead of every week or daily. A major departure from the church from the first century.


  11. Pilgrim,
    I’m Catholic and I don’t see that Lutheran people have at all ‘diminished’ the Lord’s Supper in their theological understanding of it.

    Where are you getting you information?

    Also, Catholics don’t worship Mary. Why would they? She is not God.

    You come with many assumptions that seem to be incorrect, so I would ask you about your own theological background and where you have been getting your information about other denominations or, as I like to call them, other ‘branches of the family’. Please share with us, if you wish to do so.


  12. “As for statues, etc.,…”

    It seems to me that statues of Luther are fairly rare, and when they do occur they typically are in “statue of public figure” contexts, like you might find a statue of George Washington. I don’t recall ever seeing a statue of Luther in a church, and would find one extremely weird. Stained glass, and occasionally paintings, are another matter.


  13. I don’t think Luther ‘diminished’ the Holy Mysteries. To my knowledge, the table of the Lord is THE central part of the Lutheran liturgy. The Liturgies of Word and Sacrament are intact.

    PS – I’m Orthodox.


  14. This is a beautiful album set. I bought it several years ago at the bookshop of the Scriptorium (the Van Kampen collection of Bibles and artifacts) at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. I haven’t listened to the album recently (but I know where it is!). I should get it out and listen soon. Thanks for the reminder.


  15. Actually, I’m new to your site. Although I’ve known Lutherans all my life, I’ve never asked them why. I know Catholics are accused of worshiping Mary, I wondered how Lutherans might handle the same question. But the basic question I can’t understand is why Luther found it necessary to diminish the Lord’s Supper. That was consistently taught since the first century.


  16. Like some other group names, “Lutherans” was at first a derogatory term cast at people who accepted Luther’s teachings. Technically, Lutherans today follow the Augsburg Confession as their standard of teaching. As for statues, etc., I think they just recognize an important contribution and are not places of worship or even veneration. And finally, Luther himself believed he was trying to restore the teachings of the Church Fathers, not contradict them.

    If you’ve read here before, you might recall that I describe myself as a Christian who practices my faith in the Lutheran tradition, not a Lutheran.

    Does that answer your question?


  17. Well, people call themselves Lutherans, they have statues to him, they prefer what he, an individual man, said as opposed to the whole Christian Church’s founding fathers.


  18. Big fan of renaissance music…I’ve got a thing for harpsichords…but typically the stuff without lyrics. I do like these as poems tho.


  19. Good observation, Robert. He certainly lived in extraordinary times, but also seemed to appreciate the ordinary. It’s a characteristic that makes Luther remarkable and attractive to me.


  20. I find it interesting that the same man who developed a theology of vocation rooted in a deep appreciation of the ordinary world and the ordinary work and occupations of ordinary people, also was keenly and even painfully concerned about mortality and the apocalyptic, as evidenced by two of these hymns and his motivations for writing them. Perhaps the apocalyptic is actually a dimension of the ordinary, or the ordinary contains the apocalyptic; perhaps they travel together, rather than the one transcending and (as it were) erasing the other, as we are accustomed to think.


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