213. Song of Zechariah

Text Information
First Line: Praised be the God of Israel
Title: Song of Zechariah
Versifier: Bert Polman (1986)
Meter: 87 87 887 887
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ;
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: David; Advent; Christmas (2 more...)
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Composer: Wolfgang Dachstein (1525)
Meter: 87 87 887 887
Key: F Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Luke 1:68-75
st. 2 = Luke 1:76-79

The Song of Zechariah is the second "great" canticle recorded by Luke (1:68-79), well-known as the Benedictus, after its incipit in the Latin Vulgate. Zechariah uttered his song as prophecy and praise upon the naming of his son, John the Baptist. Stanza 1 praises God for bringing deliverance from evil and being true to his word spoken by earlier prophets; stanza 2 addresses John, the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would "guide our feet in ways of peace."

Zechariah's reference to "the rising sun" (Luke 1:78) caused the early church to use this canticle in morning services, initially at Lauds, the hour of early morning praise. The song is still used for morning prayer by churches with a tradition of daily prayer services (see PHH 247 for more information on this tradition). Bert Polman (PHH 37) versified Zechariah's song in 1986 specifically for the tune AN WASSERFLÜSSEN BABYLON in an attempt to include a concise paraphrase of this long canticle in the 1987 Psalter Hymnal.

Liturgical Use:
Advent; morning worship services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

The tune AN WASSERFLÜSSEN BABYLON was composed by Wolfgang Dachstein (b. Gffenburg an der Kinzig, Germany, 1487; d. Strasbourg, Germany, 1553) and published in the Strassburger Kirchenampt (1525), edited by Dachstein and his friend Matthaus Greiter. In that collection it was the setting for Dachstein's German versification of Psalm 137, from which the tune name derives (in English, "By the rivers of Babylon"). The tune is similar in character to Genevan psalm tunes that were published slightly later, and it has always been associated with the Song of Zechariah in the Genevan psalm-singing tradition, which did permit the singing of the Lukan canticles. In bar form (AAB) with a long and complex B section, AN WASSERFLÜSSEN BABYLON is a challenging tune for congregations, but well loved by those who were nurtured in the Genevan tradition. The melisma in the final phrase effectively produces a strong ending.

Dachstein came from a long line of theologians and musicians originally from the town of Dachstein near Strasbourg. In 1503 he studied theology in Erfurt (Martin Luther was in that city in 1503 as well) and became a Dominican monk. He was an organist at both the Cathedral and the St. Thomas Church in Strasbourg and lived there at the same time as John Calvin, who was working on the Genevan Psalter. Converted to Protestantism in 1523, he became the assistant pastor at St. Thomas Church but later returned to Roman Catholicism to retain his position as organist at the Cathedral. Dachstein and Matthaus Greiter co-edited the Teutsch Kirchenamt mit Lobgesengen (1525), one of the earliest Lutheran prayer and hymnbooks.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
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