Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Full Text

1 Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
and usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with affright,
but hear the angel's warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
our confidence and joy shall be;
the pow'r of Satan breaking,
our peace eternal making.

2 Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
to herald our salvation;
He stoops to earth–the God of might,
our hope and expectation.
He comes in human flesh to dwell,
our God with us, Immanuel;
the night of darkness ending,
our fallen race befriending.

Source: Hymns to the Living God #117

Translator: John Troutbeck

Troutbeck, John, D.D., son. of George Troutbeck, of Dacre, Cumberland, b. Nov. 12, 1832, and educated at Rugby and Univ. College, Oxford, B.A. 1856, M.A. 1858, and D.D. by Abp. of Cant. 1883. Ordained in 1855. He held several appointments, the most important being Chaplain and Priest in Ordinary to the Queen, Minor Canon of Westminster, 1869, and Sec. to the N. Test. Revision Company, 1870-1881. He died Oct. 11, 1899. He made a few translations from the German, but is best known through his Manchester Psalter and Chant Book, 1867, and his Catholic Paragraph Psalter, 1894. He also compiled the Westminster Abbey Hymn Book, 1883. --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)  Go to person page >

Author: Johann von Rist

Rist, Johann, son of Kaspar Rist, pastor at Ottensen, near Hamburg, was born at Ottensen, March 8, 1607, and from his birth was dedicated to the ministry. After passing through the Johanneum at Hamburg and the Gymnasium Illustre at Bremen, he matriculated, in his 21st year, at the University of Rinteln, and there, under Josua Stegmann (q. v.), he received an impulse to hymn-writing. On leaving Rinteln he acted as tutor to the sons of a Hamburg merchant, accompanying them to the University of Rostock, where he himself studied Hebrew, Mathematics and also Medicine. During his residence at Rostock the terrors, of the Thirty Years War almost emptied the University, and Rist himself also lay there for weeks ill of the pestilence. After his r… Go to person page >


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Luke 2:8-11
st. 2 = John 1:14, Matt. 1:23

Inspired by Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2, Johann Rist (b. Ottensen, near Hamburg, Germany, 1607; d. Wedel, Germany, 1667) wrote a twelve-stanza hymn on the incarnation of Christ. Rist's text began with the words "Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist." The text was first published in Rist's Himlischer Lieder (1641).

Stanza 1 is a paraphrase of Rist's original ninth stanza; the rather free paraphrase is a composite effort of John Troutbeck and others. Borrowing more from John 1, Norman E. Johnson (PHH 322) prepared a second stanza, which was first published in the 1973 Covenant Hymnal. The composite text then views the Christmas story both through the perspective of Luke 2 (st. 1) and John 1 (st. 2).

Rist was a man of many gifts and accomplishments. He studied at the universities of Rinteln and Rostock, published widely on contemporary events, and became poet laureate for Emperor Ferdinand III in 1644. He served as both pastor and physician in Wedel (1635-1667) but lost his musical and scientific instruments during the Thirty Years' War. Although a successful pastor who was often honored for his work, Rist refused positions of greater prestige and income. In collections published from 1641 to 1656 he produced some 680 hymn texts for use in private devotions. Eventually German churches used a number of his hymns in public worship.

John Troutbeck (b. Blencowe, Cumberland, England, 1832; d. Westminster, London, England, 1899) was educated at University College, Oxford, England, and ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1856. He was precentor at Manchester cathedral from 1865 to 1869 and then held a similar position at Westminster Abbey. Troutbeck served as chaplain to Queen Victoria and was secretary for the New Testament Revision Committee (1870-1881). His greatest claim to fame arises from his translation into English of German, French, and Italian operas, songs, and oratorios (including cantatas and chorales set by J. S. Bach) for the British music publisher Novello. An editor of The Manchester Psalter (1867), Westminster Abbey Hymn Book (1883), and several chant books; he was also the author of Church Choir Training (1879).

Liturgical Use:
Christmas season; Christmas festival of lessons and carols; a fine choir anthem.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



Johann Schop (PHH 122) composed ERMUNTRE DICH in triple meter for the Rist text with which it was published in Himmlische Lieder (1641). Johann Crüger (PHH 42) adapted the tune for his Praxis Pietatis Melica (1648). The isorhythmic (all equal rhythms) setting in the Psalter Hymnal is the Johann S.…

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Instances (1 - 30 of 30)Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #49
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #114TextAudioPage Scan
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #210TextPage Scan
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #44
Christmas Favorites #42
Common Praise (1998) #147TextAudioPage Scan
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #130Text InfoTextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #91
Hymnal Supplement 98 #811
Hymnal: A Worship Book #203
Hymns for a Pilgrim People: a congregational hymnal #99
Hymns to the Living God #117TextPage Scan
Lutheran Service Book #378
Moravian Book of Worship #287TextPage Scan
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #26TextPage Scan
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #343Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreAudio
Rejoice Hymns #213
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #128
Small Church Music #1832Audio
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #264
The Christian Life Hymnal #88
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #182
The Cyber Hymnal #649TextScoreAudio
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #129
The New Century Hymnal #140TextPage Scan
The United Methodist Hymnal #223TextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
The Worshiping Church #158TextPage Scan
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #83TextAudioPage Scan
Worship and Rejoice #202TextScoreAudioPage Scan
Worship Supplement 2000 #714TextPage Scan
Include 23 pre-1979 instances
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