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HYMN 218 Nunc dimittis/In Peace and Joy I now Depart

German: Mit fried und freud ich fahr dahin

Norwegian: Med fred og glede lar du nå

Luke 2:29-38; Luke 7:11-17;

Martin Luther

Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546). Tune: German folk arranged by Luther

1. In peace and joy I now depart, According to God's will, For full of comfort is my heart, So calm and sweet and still; So doth God His promise keep, And death for me is but a sleep.

2. 'T is Christ hath wrought this work for me, Thy dear and only Son, Whom Thou hast suffer'd me to see, And made Him surely known As my Help when trouble's rife, And even in death itself my Life.

3. For Thou In mercy unto all Hast set this Savior forth; And to His kingdom Thou dost call The nations of the earth Through His blessed wholesome Word, That now in every place is heard.

4. He is the heathens' saving Light, And He will gently lead

Those who knew not his love aright, And in His pastures feed; While His people's joy He is, Their Sun, their glory, and their bliss.

Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Simeon holding the baby Jesus/one of Rembrandt's last paintings

MEDITATION “For Simeon to hold the baby Jesus in his arms was for him to embrace his death.” My English teacher, Anne Pederson, in her old age preached on this once. As she said this sentence she held her arms out as though holding a baby. One could not miss that she was also holding death in her arms even as she was embracing life, her Savior.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Unforgettable. Simeon’s song is among the most beautiful in Scripture. It has been depicted in thousands of paintings, most powerfully by Rembrandt; and musical settings, among them by Bach. He used this hymn in several of his cantatas and choral works. His cantata "Mit Fried und Freud" BWV 125 is among the favorites.

The hymn appears also in one of my favorites, Cantata BVW 95, “Christus, der ist mein Leben."It sets the tone for the entire work. Bach composed it for a Sunday in September in his first round of cantatas in 1723. It treats life and death as many of the lessons toward the end of the church year do. In this cantata, rich in hymn stanzas and references, the Gospel text is the account in Luke 7, on the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. As Christ raised the boy from death, so he will raise me. Even as I hold death in my arms, clinging to the baby Jesus I am holding on to life eternal. My death will be but a sleep.

The church in its wisdom used this as the New Testament canticle in the compline service, the last service of the day in the monastic tradition. Luther, who had sung it in Latin thousands of times as a monk, knew it by heart and loved it. He used the idea of compline for family devotions at night. So it is not surprising that it was among the first hymn texts he composed. As we have said several times, the evening prayer of the church always faces the fact that one’s sleep could be the last sleep, so one should prepare in the evening prayer for one’s death. Thus the hymn came to be used as a funeral hymn as well.

Its peaceful tune and text are a way to commend oneself to God and rest in him, with the assurance of salvation as we ready ourselves for a good night of rest—full of comfort, sweet and still, embracing our deaths, knowing we are also embracing our life, Jesus, "our Sun, our glory, and our bliss."

Johann Walter

HYMN INFO Luther wrote this early in his career. It appeared in the first Wittenberg hymnal, (1524) Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn, edited by Johann Walter (1496-1570), his musical colleague. It was probably intended for the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas, February 2. Soon people sang it at funerals and in later hymnals it was printed in the burial section. It has been set and used as a basis for many great compositions by Buxtehude, Walter, Schütz, Bach, Brahms, and others. Catherine Winkworth’s translation brought it into the English hymnals in the late 19th century, but it has not received the place it has in the German hymn tradition, unfortunately.


Good Shepherd Institute

Athesinus Consort Berlin, anthem by Volker Jaekel

Johann Walter’s choral arrangement

Choral Concert German Jazz setting, Karl Schwarnweber

Bach’s Choral prelude BWV 616

Bach Cantata 95 "Christus, der ist mein leben/Mit Fried und Freud is the chorale about 3:40. I also love its setting of "Valet will ich dir geben" and "Ach, schlage doch bald"

Text for cantata 95

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