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Updated 01/13/2020


O Thou Joyful, O Thou Wonderful

“O Thou Joyful, O Thou Wonderful” was composed by Johannes Falk. Johannes Daniel Falk, was born Octovber 28, 1768, at Danzig, where his father was a wig-maker. With a stipend from the Town Council of Danzig, he entered the University of Halle in 1791, where he studied the classics and theology, remaining as a private tutor for some time after completing his course. In 1798 he married and settled as a man of letters at Weimar, where he was welcomed by Herder, Goethe and Wieland, and where he gained some reputation as a writer of satirical works. During the Napoleonic wars, after the battle of Jena, 1806, Falk found his true vocation as a philanthropist, first in the field hospitals and then in the care of destitute children. With the court preacher Horn he founded the "Society of Friends in Need," and shortly thereafter began his Refuge for poor children; receiving them without restrictions as to age, birth, country or creed, and after giving them a godly industrial training sought to find the girls places as domestic servants and to apprentice the boys to trade. He lived to see the Refuge in permanent buildings (which in 1829 were made into a public training school for neglected children, under the name of Falk's Institute) and saw some 300 of his scholars fairly started in life. He died at Weimar, February 14, 1826.

The words were translated by Henry Katterjohn. Katterjohn was educated at Elmhurst College, Illinois (1888); Eden Seminary, Webster Groves, Missouri (1892); and Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri (MA 1919). Ordained in 1892, he pastored at Evangelical Synod churches in Urbana, Waverly, and Kenton, Ohio. From 1914 to 1921, he edited Sunday school materials. In 1924, he became professor of psychology and religion at Elmhurst College.

The tune is a Sicilian Mariner’s hymn traditionally used for the Roman Catholic Marian hymn "O Sanctissima." According to tradition, Sicilian seamen ended each day on their ships by singing this hymn in unison. The tune probably traveled from Italy to Germany to England, where The European Magazine and London Review first published it in 1792.



Lyrics by Johannes Falk

O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Grace revealing Christmas-tide!
Jesus came to win us
From all sin within us;
Glorify the Holy Child!

O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Love revealing Christmas-tide!
Loud hosannas singing
And all praises bringing;
May Thy love with us abide!

O thou joyful, O thou wonderful
Peace revealing Christmas-tide!
Darkness disappeareth,
God’s own light now neareth;
Peace and joy to all betide.