Silent Night, Holy Night

Representative Text

1 Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.

2 Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
heav'nly hosts sing: “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!”

3 Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

4 Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing
"Alleluia" to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.”

Source: Hymns to the Living God #109

Translator (sts. 2, 4): Anonymous

In some hymnals, the editors noted that a hymn's author is unknown to them, and so this artificial "person" entry is used to reflect that fact. Obviously, the hymns attributed to "Author Unknown" "Unknown" or "Anonymous" could have been written by many people over a span of many centuries. Go to person page >

Author: Joseph Mohr

Mohr, Joseph, was born at Salzburg, Austria, on Dec. 11, 1792. After being ordained priest on Aug. 21, 1815, by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salzburg, he was successively assistant at Ramsau and at Laufen; then coadjutor at Kuchl, at Golling, at Vigaun, at Adnet, and at Authering; then Vicar-Substitute at Hof and at Hintersee--all in the diocese of Salzburg. In 1828 he was appointed Vicar at Hintersee, and in 1837 at Wagrein, near St. Johann. He died at Wagrein, Dec. 4, 1848. The only hymn by him translated into English is:— Stille Nacht! heilige Nacht! Christmas. This pretty little carol was written for Christmas, 1818, while Mohr was assistant clergyman at Laufen, on the Salza, near Salzburg, and was set to music (as in the Garland o… Go to person page >

Translator (Sts. 1, 3): J. Freeman Young

John Freeman Young (1820-1885) Born: Oc­to­ber 30, 1820, Pitts­ton, Maine. Died: No­vem­ber 15, 1885, New York Ci­ty. Buried: Old Ci­ty Cem­e­te­ry, Jack­son­ville, Flor­i­da. Young at­tend­ed Wes­ley­an Un­i­ver­si­ty, Mid­dle­town, Con­nec­ti­cut; Wes­ley­an Sem­in­a­ry, Read­field, Maine; and the Vir­gin­ia The­o­lo­gic­al Sem­in­ary, Al­ex­and­ria, Vir­gin­ia. Or­dained a Pro­test­ant Epis­co­pal min­is­ter, he served in Tex­as, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Lou­i­si­a­na, and New York, and be­came the se­cond bi­shop of Flor­i­da in 1867. His works in­clude: Carols for Christ­mas Tide (New York: Dan­i­el Da­na, Jr., 1859) Hymns and Mu­sic for the Young, 1860-61… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright
Title: Silent Night, Holy Night
German Title: Stille Nacht
Translator (sts. 2, 4): Anonymous
Author: Joseph Mohr
Translator (Sts. 1, 3): J. Freeman Young
Meter: Irregular
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain

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Notes

Scripture References: all st. = Luke 2:1-20 With a mixture of reflection and awe, the writer evokes the night of Christ's birth, recalling not only the birth but also its meaning: the Christ who is born in Bethlehem is our Savior and our King! Parish priest Joseph Mohr (b. Salzburg, Austria, 1792; d. Wagrein, Austria, 1848) wrote the original German text in six stanzas in Oberndorf, Austria, on December 24, 1818, for St. Nicholas's Church. Because the church organ had broken down that day, Mohr and his parish organist, Franz Gruber (b. Unterweizberg, near Hochburg, Austria, 1787; d. Hallein, near Salzburg, Austria, 1863), composed this beloved hymn to be accompanied on guitar for the Christmas Eve service. After organ repairman Karl Mauracher heard the hymn, he took the manuscript to the Tyrol region. Because it was sung by various Tyrol folk groups (including the touring Strasser "sisters" and the Rainer family), "Silent Night" became known as a “Tyrolean carol.” The hymn's widespread use enhanced its popularity throughout Europe and North America during the middle nineteenth century. Without attributing the hymn's composition to Mohr and Gruber, the Leipzig Katholisches Gesang-und Gebetbuch first published the hymn in 1838; because of the efforts of Gruber's grandson, the author and composer were soon recognized. Author Joseph Mohr was born into a humble family–his mother was a seamstress and his father, an army musketeer. A choirboy in Salzburg Cathedral as a youth, Mohr studied at Salzburg University and was ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in 1815. Mohr was a priest in various churches near Salzburg, including St. Nicholas Church. He spent his later years in Hintersee and Wagrein. Various English translations abound, some of which are rather free paraphrases. The familiar stanzas 1, 3, and 4 in the Psalter Hymnal come from the popular English translation by John F. Young, first published in John C. Hollister's Sunday School Service and Tune Book (1863). Henrietta Ten Harmsel (PHH 61) wrote stanza 2 and made other alterations in the text in 1984 to "stress the paradoxes and deeper meanings of Christmas." Liturgical Use: Candlelight worship services on Christmas Eve; church school programs; "carols from many lands" choral services. --Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

STILLE NACHT

Although he composed nearly one hundred works, Franz Gruber is remembered for only one–the tune of "Silent Night," composed on Christmas Eve, 1818. He scored the tune for tenor and bass soli (sung by Mohr and Gruber on that night) with the final phrase to be repeated in harmony (sung by the villag…

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