Abide with us, O Lord, we pray; the gloom of darkness chase away!
The Epiphany season emphasizes that Jesus is the true Light, shining in a dark, sinful world. He been shown to be King by receiving royal gifts and gifts foreshowing His atoning death (Epiphany Day). With His first miracle (last Sunday’s Gospel) and His work of healing (today’s Gospel), Jesus shows His divine power over His creation—both that which is good and that which is broken.
Today’s HYMN OF THE DAY, “From God the Father, Virgin-Born,” (401) highlights the themes of the Epiphany season: “Your work of healing, Lord, begin, and take away the stain of sin.”
As Christians, this is our comfort: Christ is with us in this life to shield us from harm, and “we believe, shall come again.”
This medieval office hymn is from the eleventh century, of unknown authorship. An office hymn is the main hymn at one of the prayer offices (like Matins or Vespers). There are office hymns for times of the day or days of the week, and also, like today’s hymn, for the seasons of the liturgical year.
The translation is by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), an Anglican pastor who is known for his diligent labors in the study and translation of hymnody from the Greek and Latin. He published numerous volumes of his own hymns and many translations, 22 of which are in Lutheran Service Book.
“As a translator Neale’s success was preeminent. To him more than to any one else we owe some of the most successful translations from the classical languages. Neale had all the qualifications of a good translator—an excellent knowledge of the classics and medieval Latin and an exquisite ear for melody and spiritedness” (Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal).
Praise to Thee who light dost send The DISTRIBUTION HYMN, “Thy Strong Word” (578), was written by Martin Franzmann (1907-1976). Franzmann, a professor at Concordia Seminary—St. Louis, was encouraged by colleague Walter E. Buszin (1899-1973) to write a text for the tune “Ebenezer.” The hymn was written based on the seminary’s motto “Light from above” (St. Matthew 4.16). The first four-stanza version was first sung on October 7, 1954, and the six-stanza version was first sung on June 3, 1959.
Today’s PRELUDE is a setting of “Thy Strong Word” by John A. Behnke (b. 1953). Dr. Behnke was one of my organ professors at Concordia University Wisconsin, where he served as professor of music and directed the Alleluia Ringers handbell ensemble. Today’s setting is a partita as follows:
- Pedal Solo
- The Cross
- Fanfare (omitted today)