Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying

Representative Text

1 Wake, awake, for night is flying,
the watchmen on the heights are crying;
awake, Jerusalem, at last.
Midnight hears the welcome voices,
and at the thrilling cry rejoices:
"Come forth, you maidens! Night is past.
The Bridegroom comes! Awake;
your lamps with gladness take!"
Prepare yourselves to meet the Lord,
whose light has stirred the waiting guard.

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 ris'n; her light is come.
O, come, you Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son.
Sing hosanna!
We go until the halls we view
where You have bid us dine with You.

3 Now let all the heav'ns adore You,
and saints and angels sing before You.
The harps and cymbals all unite.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
where, dwelling with the choir immortal,
we gather 'round Your dazzling light.
No eye has seen, no ear
has yet been trained to hear
what joy is ours!
Crescendos rise; Your halls resound;
hosannas blend in cosmic sound.

Source: Psalms and Hymns to the Living God #218

Author: 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 >


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, 1987



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