Ah! Lord, how shall I meet Thee

Full Text

1 O Lord, how shall I meet you,
how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy,
a lamp within my breast,
to do in spirit lowly
all that may please you best.

2 Love caused your incarnation;
love brought you down to me;
your thirst for my salvation
procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling,
that led you to embrace
in love, all loves excelling,
our lost and fallen race.

3 You come, O Lord, with gladness,
in mercy and goodwill,
to bring an end to sadness
and bid our fears be still.
In patient expectation
we live for that great day
when your renewed creation
your glory shall display.


Source: Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #104

Translator: Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth is "the most gifted translator of any foreign sacred lyrics into our tongue, after Dr. Neale and John Wesley; and in practical services rendered, taking quality with quantity, the first of those who have laboured upon German hymns. Our knowledge of them is due to her more largely than to any or all other translators; and by her two series of Lyra Germanica, her Chorale Book, and her Christian Singers of Germany, she has laid all English-speaking Christians under lasting obligation." --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A., 1872… Go to person page >

Author: Paul Gerhardt

Gerhardt, Paulus, son of Christian Gerhardt, burgomaster of Gräfenhaynichen, near Wittenberg, was born at Grafenhaynichen, Mar. 12, 1607. On January 2, 1628, he matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. In the registers of St. Mary's church, Wittenberg, his name appears as a godfather, on July 13, 1641, described still as "studiosus," and he seems to have remained in Wittenberg till at least the end of April, 1642. He appears to have gone to Berlin in 1642 or 1643, and was there for some time (certainly after 1648) a tutor in the house of the advocate Andreas Barthold, whose daughter (Anna Maria, b. May 19, 1622, d. March 5, 1668) became his wife in 1655. During this period he seems to have frequently preached in Berlin. He was appoint… Go to person page >

Notes

Paul Gerhardt (b. Gräfenhainichen, Saxony, Germany, 1607; d. Lubben, Germany, 1676), famous author of Lutheran evangelical hymns, wrote this German text in ten stanzas, published in Crüger and Runge's Luthers . . . geistliche LiederundPsalmen (1653). The Psalter Hymnal contains three of those ten stanzas.

The original text was inspired by Matthew 21:1-9, the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent in the old Lutheran lectionary. Like so many of the psalms that use the first-person pronoun ("I"), this text moves from the personal welcome of the Savior (st. 1), to a confession of the reason for Christ's incarnation (st. 2), to the church's expectation of Christ's return (st. 3).

The English translation of stanzas 1 and 2 is based on that of Catherine Winkworth (PHH 194) in her Chorale Book for England (1863). Bert Polman (PHH 37) translated stanza 3 for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal.

Gerhardt studied theology and hymnody at the University of Wittenberg and then was a tutor in Berlin, where he became friends with Johann Cruger (PHH 42). He served the Lutheran parish of Mittenwalde near Berlin (1651-1657) and the great St. Nicholas' Church in Berlin (1657-1666). Friederich William, the Calvinist elector, had issued an edict that forbade the various Protestant groups to fight each other. Although Gerhardt did not want strife between the churches, he refused to comply with the edict because he thought it opposed the Lutheran "Formula of Concord," which condemned some Calvinist doctrines. Consequently, he was released from his position in Berlin in 1666. With the support of friends he became archdeacon at Lubben in 1669 and remained there until his death. Gerhardt experienced much suffering in his life; he and his parishioners lived in the era of the Thirty Years' War, and his family experienced incredible tragedy: four of his five children died young, and his wife died after a prolonged illness. In the history of hymnody Gerhardt is considered a transitional figure-he wrote at a time when hymns were changing from a more objective, confessional, and corporate focus to a pietistic, devotional, and personal one. Like other German hymns, Gerhardt's were lengthy and intended for use throughout a service, a group of stanzas at a time. More than 130 of his hymns were published in various editions of Cruger's Praxis Pietatis Melica, the Crüger-Runge Gesangbuch (1653), and
Ebeling's Das andere Dutzeud geistliche Andachtslieder Herrn Paul Gerhardts (1666-1667). John Wesley (PHH 267) and Catherine Winkworth (PHH 194) both made famous English translations of Gerhardt's texts.

Liturgical Use:
Worship services of renewal and penitence during Advent; worship that focuses on Christ's return; Palm Sunday, especially with the alternate tune ST. THEODOLPH (375 and 376).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

ST. THEODULPH (Teschner)

Now often named ST. THEODULPH because of its association with this text, the tune is also known, especially in organ literature, as VALET WILL ICH DIR GEBEN. It was composed by Melchior Teschner (b. Fraustadt [now Wschowa, Poland], Silesia, 1584; d. Oberpritschen, near Fraustadt, 1635) for "Valet wi…

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WIE SOLL ICH DICH EMPFANGEN

Johann Crüger composed WIE SOLL ICH DICH EMPFANGEN for Gerhardt's text and published the tune in 1653; the tune name is the German incipit of Gerhardt's text. Enhancing a sense of personal and communal meditation, the tune gives reflective support to this text. The tune is in isorhythmic form (all…

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