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 is "the most gifted translator of any foreign sacred lyrics into our tongue, after Dr. Neale and John Wesley; and in practical services rendered, taking quality with quantity, the first of those who have laboured upon German hymns. Our knowledge of them is due to her more largely than to any or all other translators; and by her two series of Lyra Germanica, her Chorale Book, and her Christian Singers of Germany, she has laid all English-speaking Christians under lasting obligation." --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872… Go to person page >

Author: Philipp Nicolai

Nicolai, Philipp, D.D., son of Dieterich Nicolai, sometime Lutheran pastor at Herdecke, in Westphalia, and after 1552, at Mengeringhausen in Waldeck, was born at Mengeringhausen, August 10, 1556. (The father was son of Nicolaus Rafflenbol, of Rafflenbol, near Hagen, in Westphalia, and in later life had adopted the Latinised form Nicolai of his father's Christian name as his own surname.) In 1575 Nicolai entered the University of Erfurt, and in 1576 he went to Wittenberg. After completing his University course in 1579 (D.D. at Wittenberg July 4, 1594), he lived for some time at Volkliardinghausen, near Mengeringhausen, and frequently preached for his father. In August, 1583, he was appointed Lutheran preacher at Herdecke, but found many diff… Go to person page >


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



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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