O Morning Star! how fair and bright

Representative Text

1 O Morning Star, how clear and bright,
your beam shines forth in truth and light!
My Sovereign meek and lowly!
O Root of Jesse, Promised One,
my God and Ruler, you have won
my heart to serve you solely!
You are holy,
great and glorious, all-victorious,
Rich in blessing,
rule and might o'er all possessing.

2 Come heavenly Brightness, Light divine,
and deep within my heart now shine,
there make yourself an altar!
Fill me with joy and strength to be
your member, joined eternally
in love that cannot falter;
Longing for you
does possess me; turn and bless me;
Here in sadness
eye and heart long for your gladness.

Source: The New Century Hymnal #158

Translator: Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth (b. Holborn, London, England, 1827; d. Monnetier, Savoy, France, 1878) is well known for her English translations of German hymns; her translations were polished and yet remained close to the original. Educated initially by her mother, she lived with relatives in Dresden, Germany, in 1845, where she acquired her knowledge of German and interest in German hymnody. After residing near Manchester until 1862, she moved to Clifton, near Bristol. A pioneer in promoting women's rights, Winkworth put much of her energy into the encouragement of higher education for women. She translated a large number of German hymn texts from hymnals owned by a friend, Baron Bunsen. Though often altered, these translations continue to be used i… Go to person page >

Author: Philipp Nicolai

Philipp Nicolai (b. Mengeringhausen, Waldeck, Germany, 1556; d. Hamburg, Germany, 1608) lived an eventful life–he fled from the Spanish army, sparred with Roman Catholic and Calvinist opponents, and ministered to plague-stricken congregations. Educated at Wittenberg University, he was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1583 in the city of Herdecke. However, he was soon at odds with the Roman Catholic town council, and when Spanish troops arrived to reestablish Roman dominance, Nicolai fled. In 1588 he became chief pastor at Altwildungen and court preacher to Countess Argaretha of Waldeck. During that time Nicolai battled with Calvinists, who disagreed with him about the theology of the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. These doctri… Go to person page >

Notes

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Rev. 22:16
st. 2 = John 1:14

This text is based on the famous Lutheran chorale 'Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern" by Philipp Nicolai, published in his Frewden-Spiegel dess ewigen Lebens (1599).

Philipp Nicolai (b. Mengeringhausen, Waldeck, Germany, 1556; d. Hamburg, Germany, 1608) described his text as "a Spiritual bridal song of the believing soul concerning her Heavenly Bridegroom, founded in the 45th Psalm of the Prophet David." He wrote the text in 1597, the year after the Black Plague had ravaged Germany. Even though this chorale arose out of sadness, it became popular for wed¬dings in Germany. The chorale is often called the "Queen of the Chorales"; his “Wake, Awake” (613) is named "King of the Chorales."

Nicolai lived an eventful life–he fled from the Spanish army, sparred with Roman Catholic and Calvinist opponents, and ministered to plague-stricken congregations. Educated at Wittenberg University, he was ordained a Lutheran pastor in 1583 in the city of Herdecke. However, he was soon at odds with the Roman Catholic town council, and when Spanish troops arrived to reestablish Roman dominance, Nicolai fled. In 1588 he became chief pastor at Altwildungen and court preacher to Countess Argaretha of Waldeck. During that time Nicolai battled with Calvinists, who disagreed with him about the theology of the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. These doctrinal controversies were renewed when he served the church in Unna, Westphalia. During his time as a pastor there, the plague struck twice, and Nicolai wrote both "How Bright Appears the Morning Star" and "Wake, Awake." Nicolai's last years were spent as Pastor of St. Katherine's Church in Hamburg.

The English text, only loosely translated from the original German, is mainly the work of William Mercer (b. Barnard Castle, Durham, England, 1811; d. Leavy Green, Sheffield, England, 1873). First published in Church Psalter and Hymn Book (1856) and revised substantially in 1859, Mercer's text incorporates some lines from a translation of Nicolai's chorale by John C. Jacobi published in Jacobi's Psalmodia Germanica (1722). Mercer's text includes certain Nicolai phrases, omits Nicolai's love-song imagery, and emphasizes objective praise and prayer.

Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, Mercer was ordained in the Church of England and served the parish of St. George's, Sheffield (1840-1873). Be translated and paraphrased several hymns from Latin and German, but his main contribution to church music was as compiler, with John Goss (PHH 164), of the most popular psalter and hymnal in the Church of England in the mid-nineteenth century. This collection had the imposing title The Church Psalter and Hymn Book, comprising the Psalter, or Psalms of David, together with the Canticles, Pointed for Chanting; Four Hundred Metrical Hymns and Six Responses to the Commandments; the whole united to appropriate Chan and Tunes, for the Use of Congregations and Families (1854, enlarged 1856, and published with an Appendix 1872).

Stanza 1 begins with the words "Morning Star" from Revelation 22: 16 and proceeds to give Old Testament names for the Messiah–"O Righteous Branch," "O Jesse's Rod." Stanza 2 relates how Christ left his glory to become human for our salvation. Both stanzas 1 and 2 end with a prayer of petition. Stanza 3, with a prayer of praise, rejoices in Christ's incarnation and exhorts the Incarnate God to "ride on, great Conqueror, till all know your salvation."

Liturgical Use:
Epiphany; Christmas season; any worship service that focuses on Christ as Lord.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET

Adapting a tune written for Psalm 100 found in Wolff Köphel's Psalter (1538), Nicolai composed WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET, which was published with the text in 1599. Although the tune was originally more varied rhythmically, the hymnal version here is isorhythmic (all equal rhythms) and set to the rich ha…

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