A selection of Nicolaus Selnecker, one of the authors of the Formula of Concord, on the contemporary usage of chief hymns in Leipzig, AD 1587.
“IN OUR CHURCHES, we preserve the hymns of Dr. Luther and joyfully join one another in singing them and the others in his hymnal… We here in Leipzig have long had a good Christian scheme for which hymn is to be sung in church on every Sunday and festival, according to what best fits that day’s Gospel, and this scheme has been kept up to this day…
To relate this order briefly for the instruction of others, the congregation, during Advent, sings “Savior of the Nations, Come” along with the German Litany.
During the Christmas holiday is sung: “We Praise Thee Jesus at Thy Birth”, “Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One,” “Thanks Let us Render” [the Sequence, Danksagen wir alle —MC], “From Heav’n Above to Earth I Come,” “From Heav’n the Angel Troop Came near,” “Why, Herod, Fearest Thou the Foe?”, and “Hail the Day So Rich in Cheer.” These hymns are cycled through until Candlemas.
Now, if the Baptism of Christ is preached, as often happens, on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, then “To Jordan Came Our Lord the Christ” is sung.
On Candlemas is sung “Lord, Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart in Peace” as well as “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart.” On the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, the hymn “In Peace and Joy…” is repeated, or else “O Lord Look Down from Heav’n, Behold” is sung. Septuagesima: “Salvation unto Us Has Come”; Sexagesima: “Our Father, Thou in Heav’n Above”; Esto mihi: “By Adam’s Fall Is All Forlorn”; Invocavit: “O Christ, Who art the Light and Day” —which hymn is repeated with the German Litany in church every Sunday until Palm Sunday.
On Palm Sunday, before the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of St. Matthew is chanted, the hymn “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” is normally sung. On Maundy Thursday, “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior” (concerning the Lord’s Supper) is sung. On Good Friday, before the whole Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of St. John is chanted, that excellent hymn “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice” is sung.
During the Easter holiday are sung “This is Such a Holy Day” [Also heilig ist der Tag - after Salve festa dies —MC], “Christ Is Arisen from the Grave’s Dark Prison,” “Jesus Christ our Savior True, Who Death Overthrew,”… and such are continued until Rogation Sunday and that week, when “Our Father Thou in Heav’n Above” is sung.
On Ascension, however, the comforting hymn “Dear Christians, One and All…” is repeated; also, “Christ rose to heaven” [Christ fuhr gen Himmel]. On Exaudi: “If God Had Not Been on Our Side.” During the Pentecost holiday: “We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost,” “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord.” On Trinity: “God the Father, Be Our Stay,” “May God Bestow on Us His Grace.”
On the First Sunday after Trinity is sung the last hymn named, and “The Mouth of Fools doth God Confess” is occasionally added on account of the Gospel. On Trinity II: “Lord, Hear the Voice of My Complaint”; Trinity III: “Have Mercy on Me, Lord my God” [Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott,” or “The Only Son from Heaven”; IV: “That Man a Godly Life Might Live”; V: “Were God Not with Us at This Time” or “If God Had Not Been on Our Side”; VI: “Wilt Thou, O Man, Live Happily” or “Salvation unto Us Has Come”; VII: “My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker” or “My Soul Now Magnifies the Lord”; VIII: “O Lord, Look Down from Heav’n, Behold”; IX. “The Mouth of Fools doth God Confess”; X. “Beside the Streams of Babylon” [An Wasserflüssen Babylon —MC]; XI: “In Thee Alone, O Christ, My Lord” or “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee”; XII: “By Adam’s Fall Is All Forlorn”; XIII: “Salvation unto Us Has Come” or “That Man a Godly Life Might Live”; XIV: “Have Mercy on Me, Lord my God” or “In Thee Alone, O Christ, My Lord”; XV: “A Mighty Fortress Is our God”; XVI: “In the Midst of Earthly Life” or “In Peace and Joy I Now Depart”; XVII: “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice”; XVIII: “The Only Son from Heaven”; XIX: “Lord, Hear the Voice…” or “My Soul, Now Bless…”; XX: “O Lord, Look Down from Heav’n, Behold”; XXI: “Salvation unto Us Has Come,” “May God Bestow on Us His Grace”; XXII: “Have Mercy…”, “From Depths of Woe…”; XXIII: “The Mouth of Fools…”; XXIV: “In Peace and Joy…”, “Lord Jesus Christ, True Man and God”; XXV: “God the Father, Be Our Stay”; XXVI: “Our Father…”; XXVII: “Dear Christians…” or “A Mighty Fortress.”
Similarly, on festivals we sing, e.g., on the Annunciation, “The Only Son from Heaven”; Conversion of St. Paul: “Have Mercy on Me, Lord my God”; Feasts of Apostles: “Lord God, We Sing Thy Praise” [i.e., the Te Deum]; on the feast of John the Baptist, “To Jordan Came Our Lord the Christ”; on the Visitation, “My Soul Now Magnifies the Lord”; On St. Michael, “Lord God, We All to Thee Give Praise” or “My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker”… I say this all on account of the German hymns, which we… maintain every Sunday morning… Concerning which I must boast that a better scheme for hymns may not easily be established.”
(Translation © Matthew Carver, 2012, after the German text quoted in Kümmerle: Enzyklopädie…)