“O God, My Faithful God” (696), today’s HYMN OF THE DAY is by Johann Heermann (1585–1647), a Lutheran pastor in Silesia during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). During his time as pastor many from his congregation died from pestilence, especially during 1631. It is no wonder that Pastor Heermann could write such words as comfort as are found in this hymn.
We find true comfort in the merciful God alone, in the fountain ever flowing! A prayer for all times is for a “healthy frame,” not only to be healthy, but also to help others through one’s calling and vocation. It is so tempting to curse, swear, or speak out of turn; these betray a mistrust that God actually would work good in this vale of tears. Only forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross can set aside this mistrust. The final two stanzas are pure comfort, echoing the Nunc Dimittis (Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace). Death for the Christian body is but sleep; the Christian soul does not die, but immediately is drawn to heaven at the death of the body. Christians now commend themselves to their Savior. Then, in splendor, Christians will rejoice over their salvation with all those who love his name. —Rev. Thomas Lock, Kantor of Trinity—Denver, for LOGIA Online
The introduction to the Hymn of the Day is by Carl Schalk (b. 1929). Schalk is professor of music emeritus at Concordia University Chicago.
The VOLUNTARY is an abbreviated version of Michael Praetorius’ (1571-1621) great phantasy on “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” one of Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) seven psalm hymns. The editor remarks on the significance of Praetorius in the musical heritage of the Lutheran Church:
“Michael Praetorius is one of the most significant and prolific musicians of the third generation of the Lutheran Church. He died while serving as Kapellmeister and organist at the court of the Duke of Braunschweig in Wolfenbüttel. A contemporary of Samuel Scheidt, Heinrich Schütz, and Johann Herman Schein, Praetorius shared enthusiasm for the new style in music practiced in Venice.
“Praetorius was a man of astonishing activity and vitality. He was the great teacher and foremost musical organizer of his day. He helped to establish church choirs and orchestras in many towns throughout Germany and provided them with the materials they needed for their work. Besides the immense number of his compositions, he wrote books on theory, on performance, and on the construction of instruments. These works are still regarded as indispensable source material for the student who desires to become familiar with the music developments in Germany during the first half of the seventeenth century.
“How strongly Praetorius—in spite of his inclination toward stylistic innovations—was rooted in the tradition of the Reformation, may best be seen by the diligent use he made of the Lutheran chorale. No composer before or after him went so far as Praetorius did in making the chorale the core and center of his work. His opus magnum, which consists of nine large volumes and which he called “Musae Sioniae” (Muses of Zion) (1605-1610), contains more than twelve hundred settings for all types of occasion and use, ranging from two-part settings for children to compositions for two, three, and four choirs, sometimes with one or more orchestral groups. The Musae Sioniae also include Praetorius’ organ works based on chorales.” –Heinrich Fleischer (1912-2006)