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HYMN 35 Awake, My Heart, with Gladness

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

German: Auf, auf, mein Herz

Matthew 28:1-15

Text: Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) Tune: Johann Crüger (1598-1662)

Paul Gerhardt

1. Awake, my heart, with gladness,

See what today is done;

Now, after gloom and sadness,

Comes forth the glorious sun.

My Savior there was laid

Where our bed must be made

When to the realms of light

Our spirit wings its flight.

2. The foe in triumph shouted

When Christ lay in the tomb;

But lo, he now is routed,

His boast is turned to gloom.

For Christ again is free;

In glorious victory

He who is strong to save

Has triumphed o'er the grave.

3. This is a sight that gladdens--

What peace it doth impart!

Now nothing ever saddens

The joy within my heart.

No gloom shall ever shake,

No foe shall ever take

The hope which God's own Son

In love for me hath won.

4. Now hell, its prince, the devil,

Of all their pow'r are shorn;

Now I am safe from evil,

And sin I laugh to scorn.

Grim death with all his might

Cannot my soul affright;

It is a pow'rless form,

Howe'er it rave and storm.

5. The world against me rages,

Its fury I disdain;

Though bitter war it wages,

Its work is all in vain.

My heart from care is free,

No trouble troubles me.

Misfortune now is play,

And night is bright as day.

6. Now I will cling forever

To Christ, my Savior true;

My Lord will leave me never,

Whate'er He passes through.

He rends death's iron chain;

He breaks through sin and pain;

He shatters hell's dark thrall;

I follow Him through all.

7. He brings me to the portal

That leads to bliss untold,

Whereon this rhyme immortal

Is found in script of gold:

"Who there My cross has shared

Finds here a crown prepared;

Who there with Me has died

Shall here be glorified."

Tr. John Kelly 1833-1890


We are probably talking to ourselves a lot these days. Not just because we may be

isolated, away from others, but because we are in some ways divided between what we

know and what we feel. We can talk ourselves into despair, grim resolution or joy, with

some success. Most of us do talk to ourselves, whether aloud or silently. I know I do—

sometimes fussing with an old memory that upsets me. Sometimes I will even holler, oh,

no, or words to that effect. My five-year old great nephew will ask, “What, Gracia?”

“Nothing,” I say.

Gerhardt uses that convention in this hymn. Speaking to his heart, he encourages it to see

everything in the light of the resurrection. Everything is changed. One could imagine in

this conversation that Gerhardt is downhearted and depressed for every good reason. He

wrote it in 1648, the year that the Thirty Years War ended, an awful time. In the

Brandenburg region where Gerhardt was living, scholars estimate over half the

population perished. Not only the violence of armies killing and pillaging, but pestilence

and plague ravaging the land. By faith in the risen Christ he could say, “Misfortune now

is play,/And night is bright as day.”

We need words from our Lord to center us and give us peace in difficult times. I

remember when we were standing in the emergency room where my father was fighting

for his life after a terrible car accident. He had suffered a massive head injury. The doctor

said, “You should call a pastor.” Pastor? Dad was our pastor. Then we remembered our

good friend, Luthard Gjerde. He came quickly. As he walked into the room, past the

curtains and the beeping instruments measuring his vitals, now so frail, he said, “I have

one word for you. ‘Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.’”

The verse gave us renewed footing in a truth we lived by, but hadn’t seemed to need as

we did just then. As a seminary professor, I was stunned. Of course! This is why we teach

and preach: the Gospel is the only word that can be spoken in the face of death. The

resurrection gives confidence and joy. Talk to yourselves as Gerhardt did. “No gloom

shall ever shake,/No foe shall ever take/The hope which God's own Son/In love for me

hath won.”


Gerhardt's church in Lübben, Germany

Johann Crüger’s tune for this, musically, rises from the depths into the heights, matching

the text very well. Bach used it in one of his settings of Sacred Songs (BWV 441) and it

remains a favorite among German Lutherans. Crüger, as organist in the Nikolai church in

Berlin, also suffered the ravages of the war, but continued to publish his volume of

hymns, Praxis Pietatis Melica, despite the unsettled times. Maybe working on these

glorious hymns with Paul Gerhardt in the middle of all the slaughter made what they said

ring true. This hymn appeared in the 1648 edition.


Concordia Publishing House version

Dresden Vocal

Kirsten Flagstad/ Bach’s setting with the estimable Gerald Moore

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