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Updated 06/04/2013

 

Now Thank We All Our God


Katherine Winkworth

Martin Rinkart, a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny, dur­ing the Thir­ty Years’ War. The walled ci­ty of Eil­en­burg saw a stea­dy stream of re­fu­gees pour through its gates. The Swed­ish ar­my sur­round­ed the ci­ty, and fa­mine and plague were ramp­ant. Eight hund­red homes were de­stroyed, and the peo­ple be­gan to per­ish. There was a tre­men­dous strain on the pas­tors who had to con­duct do­zens of fun­er­als dai­ly. Fi­nal­ly, the pas­tors, too, suc­cumbed, and Rink­art was the on­ly one left—doing 50 fun­er­als a day. When the Swedes de­mand­ed a huge ran­som, Rink­art left the safe­ty of the walls to plead for mer­cy. The Swed­ish com­mand­er, im­pressed by his faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands.

Soon af­ter­ward, the Thir­ty Years’ War end­ed, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand cel­e­bra­tion ser­vice. It is a test­a­ment to his faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.

The words were translated into English by Catherine Winkworth.  Winkworth lived most of her life in Man­chest­er, Eng­land. The not­a­ble ex­cept­ion was the year she spent in Dres­den, Ger­ma­ny. Around 1854, she pub­lished Lyra Ger­man­i­ca, con­tain­ing nu­mer­ous Ger­man hymns trans­lat­ed in­to Eng­lish. She went on to pub­lish ano­ther ser­ies of Ger­man hymns in 1858. In 1863, she came out with The Chor­ale Book for Eng­land, and in 1869, Christ­ian Sing­ers of Ger­ma­ny. More than any other sin­gle person, she helped bring the Ger­man chor­ale tra­di­tion to the Eng­lish speak­ing world.


Johan Cr
ügar

The words are set to the tune, Nun Danket attributed to Johann Crüger.  Johann Crüger (April 9, 1598 – February 23, 1662) was a German composer of well-known hymns.

Crüger was born in Groß Breesen (now part of Guben) as the son of an innkeeper. He studied at the Lateinschule in Guben until 1613, after which he traveled to Sorau and Breslau and finally to Regensburg, where he received his first musical training from Paulus Homberger. In 1615 he traveled to Berlin, where he studied theology at the Berlinisches Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster. From 1620 he studied theology at the University of Wittenberg and trained himself further in music through private study. From 1622 to his death, a period of 40 years, he was simultaneously a teacher at gymnasium Zum Grauen Kloster and cantor of the Nikolaikirche in Berlin.

Crüger composed numerous concert works and wrote extensively on music education. In 1643 he became acquainted with the famous hymn writer Paul Gerhardt, for whom he wrote the music for various hymns. In 1647 he edited the most important German Lutheran hymnal of the 17th century, Praxis pietatis melica.


Lyrics by Martin Rinkart

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.