613. Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

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1 "Wake, awake, for night is flying,"
the watchmen on the heights are crying;
"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"
Midnight hears the welcome voices
and at the thrilling cry rejoices:
"Where are the virgins pure and wise?
The Bridegroom comes: Awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care and faith's bold prayer,
to meet the Bridegroom, come, prepare!"

2 Zion hears the watchmen singing,
and in her heart new joy is springing.
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all-glorious
and strong in grace, in truth victorious.
Her star is risen, her light is come!
Now come, O Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son.
Sing hosanna!
We answer all in joy your call;
we follow to the wedding hall.

3 Lamb of God, the heavens adore you,
the saints and angels sing before you
with harp and cymbals' clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
where, joining with the choir immortal,
we gather round your radiant throne.
No eye has seen that light,
no ear the echoed might
of your glory;
yet there shall we in victory
sing shouts of joy eternally!

Text Information
First Line: Wake, awake, for night is flying
Title: Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying
Original Language: German
Author: Philipp Nicolai (1599)
Translator: Catherine Winkworth (1858)
Meter: PM
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ;
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: Jerusalem; Return of Christ; The New Creation (3 more...)
Source: Lutheran Worship, 1982, rev., alt.
Tune Information
Composer: Hans Sachs (c. 1513)
Adapter: Philipp Nicolai (1599)
Harmonizer: Johann S. Bach, 1685-1650
Meter: PM
Key: C Major
Source: Cantata 140 (harm. in)

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Matt. 25:1-13, Isa. 52:1, 8
st. 2 = Rev. 22:16-20
st. 3 = Rev. 5:11-13, Rev. 21:21, Isa. 64:4, 1 Cor. 2:9

In 1597 the Westphalian (German) village where pastor Philipp Nicolai (PHH 357) lived experienced a terrible pestilence, which claimed some thirteen hundred lives in his parish alone. Nicolai turned from the constant tragedies and frequent funerals (at times he buried thirty people in one day) to meditate on "the noble, sublime doctrine of eternal life obtained through the blood of Christ." As he said, “This I allowed to dwell in my heart day and night and searched the Scriptures as to what they revealed on this matter.” Nicolai also read Augustine's City of God before he wrote this great Advent text and arranged its tune.

The original German text (“Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme”) and tune were published in Nicolai's collection of devotional poetry, Frewden-Spiegel dess ewigen Lebens (1599), with a title that read (translated into English), "Of the Voice at Midnight and the Wise Virgins who meet their Heavenly Bridegroom." Catherine Winkworth's (PHH 194) English translation was published in her Lyra Germanica (1858). The Psalter Hymnal includes that translation as altered in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).

The parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) was the inspiration for stanzas 1 and 2, and John's visions of the glory of Christ and the new Jerusalem (Rev. 19, 21, and 22) provide the basis for stanza 3. Erik Routley (PHH 31) says this hymn is filled with "pageantry, energy, light, color, and expectancy"; it is surely a great hymn about the joyful anticipation of Christ's coming again, and one that brings comfort and hope to Christians in all situations.

Liturgical Use:
Advent; other times when our eyes of faith long for the return of Christ; with preaching on Matthew 25.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

WACHET AUF is sometimes known as the "king of chorales," while Nicolai's other famous tune, WIE SCHON LEUCHTET (357) is known as the "queen of chorales." Nicolai's WACHET AUF is based on the "Silberweisse" tune (around 1513) by Hans Sachs, the famous Meistersinger from Nuremburg, Germany. The original form of the melody was more rhythmically varied, but by the eighteenth century, the isorhythmic (all equal rhythms) version is what Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) used in his Cantata 140 (1731); the harmonization is from the closing chorale of that cantata. There are also many organ preludes on the tune.

WACHET AUF calls for festive accompaniment, including brass instruments, so that the shouts of "alleluia" and "hosanna" may truly crescendo (as st. 3 suggests). Congregations will probably enjoy singing this hymn in unison, but choirs should try the harmony.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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