Hymn Summary: Last Sunday of the Church Year

Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying (LSB 516)

Last Sunday of the Church Year

Wake, Awake, for Night, written by the Lutheran Pastor Phillip Nicolai (1599), is referred to as the King of the Chorales. Outside of its outstanding confession concerning the coming Christ it entails some beautiful hidden gems.  Each verse is written in the shape of a chalice, alluding to the Christ and the host of heaven we now participate with in the Lord’s Supper.  The German original contains three initials at the beginning of each verse vs. 1 – W, 2 – Z, and 3 – G.  These belonged to Count Wilhelm Ernst a student of Nicolai’s who died a year before.  Its specific occasion for writing was a horrible plague that claimed thousands with as many as thirty people being buried each day.  Their committals were said to be in the view of Nicolai’s from his office window.  Thus it serves as a comfort to the dying and their families, causing it to be appropriately heard not only at weddings but also funerals.
It is based primarily on Matthew 25; the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  Earlier translations both in TLH and LW missed the reference to the Lord’s Supper in verse two (Das Abendmahl).  LSB has rightly restored it.  The hymn makes the text seen to its hearers and from leads one from the beckoning of the Word of God to the Supper to full participation with Christ and all the saints in heaven.

Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending (LSB 336)

Last Sunday of the Church Year

The brothers John and Charles Wesley saw that, according to Luther, music teaches the faith and imprints it strongly upon the heart. So he did in this hymn. The tune is new to LSB, but not to the text and a more beautiful pairing to the hymn.  The tune does what the text declares.  As the music descends so the text confesses “. . . with clouds descending.” As the congregation and musicians swell so we sing “Swell the triumph of His train, Alleluia . . .”  It is well worth learning if your parish has not yet undertaken the task. 
The hymn primarily pictures through song the words of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”   Some slight editing has taken place from Wesley’s original which shows theological difference between the Methodists and Lutherans, “once for favored sinners slain,” now reads “Once for every sinner slain.”

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

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