Upon a manger filled with hay / In poverty content He lay;
With milk was fed the Lord of all, / Who feeds the ravens when they call.
Luther’s magnificent hymn “Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One” (The Lutheran Hymnal 104), the HYMN TO DEPART, expresses the mystery of the Incarnation.
God, who created all things, and cares for all things, even seemingly small, insignificant things (cf. St. Matthew 6.26), is made small, becomes poor, and nurses at His mother’s breast.
This hymn is a German translation based on the hymn at Lauds (Morning Prayer) for Christmas Day “A solis ortus cardine” by Coelius Sedulius, a sixth-century bishop. Although Luther wasn’t the first to write a translation of the Latin, his significantly rearranged the first stanza so that the opening focus is clearly on Christ.
The tune is based on the traditional plainsong melody.
The PRELUDE is a setting of this hymn by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). Walther compiled the Musicalisches Lexicon, published in Leipzig in 1732, an exhaustive music encyclopedia of over 3,000 entries based on 250 sources. As a composer, he wrote 132 organ preludes based on Lutheran chorales, such as the one we hear today. Today’s Prelude features the melody played in the pedal. Listen for the tune in the long, low notes throughout the composition.
O ye heights of heaven, adore Him! The HYMN OF THE DAY, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (384), is by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). A Spanish scholar, he is known for two major works: the Preistephanon, a collection of poems honoring martyrs of Spain, Rome, and Africa; and the Cathemerinon, a series of hymns for the various hours of the day. It is from this latter work that “Of the Father’s Love” originates.
Singing the Creed Throughout much of the history of the Church, the Nicene Creed was one of the sung portions of the liturgy of the Divine Service. On festival days, we sing the plainsong setting that is found in Lutheran Worship # 4. During the Epiphany season, we will use a simple method to sing the Creed together in monotone. Pastor will begin the singing with “I believe in one God,” on one note, and then everyone will join in together on the same note for the rest of the Creed: “the Father Almighty…”.