Hymn Summary: Second to Last Sunday of the Church Year

The Day is Surely Drawing Near (LSB 508)

Second to Last Sunday

Our hymn written by Bartholomaus Ringwaldt, a Lutheran pastor who died in 1599.  It is based on the historic Medieval Latin poem, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath).  Its historic usage and its nineteen verses were associated with and used at the time of the Christian’s death.  Some say it was written in the thirteenth century though others ascribe its origin with Gregory the Great (500s)!  It comes from various portions of the Scripture including St. Matthew’s separation of the sheep from the goats, St. Luke’s description of the last days, and Paul’s descriptions of the final day with its trumpet sound in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15.  Many of these texts you can still hear at the grave during the Christian committal, pointing to the hope of the great Resurrection of all flesh.

To listen to the historic rendition of Dies Irae one hears a powerful, foreboding, perhaps even terrifying sound.  Our hymnal’s setting is concerned with a balance of warning and comfort from God’s Word, terror over unbelief and joy for Christ’s sake.  The first four verses tell the events of the last day, emphasizing the final judgment and the punishment for being without faith.  The final three verses deliver those who sing from the terrors of hell, beautifully proclaiming the work of Jesus: writing the singer’s name in the book of life, interceding for His own before the Father, and hearing his children’s prayer and hastening their salvation.

Rev. Adrian N. Sherrill serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado.