Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Christliche Bet-Stunden of Sophia, Margravine of Brandenburg-Prussia

In 1628, a devotional hymnal was printed in Onolzbach (Ansbach), Bavaria, which had been Lutheran since 1528, under the auspices of Paul Böhm. It was called Horae Christianae, Christliche Bet-stunden (The Christian Hours) and, according to its title-page, reflected the use of court at the private chapel of the Margravine, Lady Sophia of Brandenburg-Prussia (then ruled in personal union), etc., Duchess,
née Duchess of Brunswick-Lunenberg.

The hymnal was designed for daily use at 3 o'clock in the evening (as stated even on the title-page), which is to say, Vespers, "for praying and singing." We are also informed by the title-page that the hymnal had already ben in use "for several years" by the time of this publication "at the gracious request of other pious Christians in these perilous times."

"Perilous times" are a theme here. The dedicatory verses are Psalm 50 ("Call on me in the time of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall praise me") and Psalm 42 ("Why are you downcast, O my soul, and so disquieted within me? Wait on God; for I will yet thank Him because He helps my countenance and is my God")

Then without further instruction we are introduced to the Hours, under the rubric "The First Week," by a General Confession:
Almighty, everlasting, and merciful God and Father, we poor sinners confess and acknowledge from the bottom of our heart that we have grieved Your high Majesty with our great and manifold sins, whereby we have disobeyed Your Word, resisted Your holy will, slandered Your name, despised the warnings wherewith You threaten the willful, and have not taken it to heart, nor been afraid, but have sinned wickedly against You with pride, despising of Your Word, disobedience, avarice, unchastity, unrighteousness, hatred, jealousy, quarreling, murder, and falsehood, and other countless sins, and thereby invited upon us Your just anger and heavy punishments, temporal and eternal, if You should enter into judgment with us : these our iniquities sorely oppress us, and overwhelm us, and are grown too heavy for us, as it were a heavy burden.
But we take refuge in Your boundless grace and mercy, and beseech You not to enter into judgment with us great and wretched sinners, nor to punish us according as we owe, but to remember Your mercy which has been since the beginning of the world. Be pleased to accept the intercession of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and only High Priest. For the sake of His holy merit and perfect obedience have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, and graciously take away from us the distress and danger that await us, or else diminish it. Punish us not in Your wrath, nor chasten us in Your hot displeasure; for You are merciful and gracious, patient and of great goodness, and have promised to deal with us not according to our sins, and not to repay us according to our iniquities.

We also heartily beseech You to grant us true repentance and amendment of life, to incline our heart toward You, to sustain us in Your godly fear, and in Christ Jesus to grant us eternal salvation; who live and reign, one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, most blessed forever. Amen.

This is followed by a "Prayer in Time of Need" composed largely of psalms:
O almighty, everlasting, and merciful God, You are our dear Father. We Your children lie in great distress, sorrow, and misery. With a humble heart we confess that we have deserved the present punishment by our great and manifold sin.
O Lord, dearest Father, we heartily beseech You, punish us not in Your wrath, nor chasten us in Your hot displeasure.
O Lord, hear our prayer, receive our supplication because of Your truth, hear us because of Your righteousness, and enter not into judgment with Your servants, for before You none living is righteous. From depths of woe we cry to You: hear our voice, let Your ears attend to the voice of our weeping. If you would take an account of sin, O Lord, who will stand before You? For with You there is forgiveness. We have sinned with our fathers, we have acted wickedly and have been ungodly. Yet deign not to deal with us according to our sins, nor to repay us according to our iniquities.
O Lord, we know and believe (howbeit strengthen and increase our faith!) that You will have mercy upon us, and receive us tenderly as a Father has mercy on his children: "Let him call on me and I will hear him. I am with him in trouble. I will bring him out of it." You said this Yourself, O Lord; You made Your promise certain to us. Yea, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, confirmed these Your words with a precious oath, saying, "Verily, verily, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it you."
Therefore, dear Father, we bend the knee of our heart before You, and cry in this trouble to You alone, for we know not what to do; our eyes look to You. You know our frailties, You remember that we are but dust.
O Lord, turn again to us and be gracious to us. Fill us early with Your lovingkindness, and we shout and rejoice all the days of our life. Make us glad according to the time that You afflicted us, after we suffered so long adversity.
O Lord, remember us, and defend us. We are called by Your name, and we are Your people. Pour out Your displeasure on the factions and sects, our enemies, and the adversaries of Your Word; for Your anger endures for a moment, and You delight in life. Weeping lasts for the evening, but in the morning joy. You will not forget the cause of the poor, and the hope of the needy will not perish forever. You comfort us in anguish, and in time of trouble we call upon You to hear us.
O Lord, say to the Destroyer, "It is enough. Remove your hand away." For with You help is found, and Your right hand can change all things. When this needy man called, the Lord heard it, and helped him out of all his troubles. When the righteous cry, the Lord hears it, and delivers them out of all their trouble. The Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted, and helps those who are contrite in spirit. Mercifully hear this the prayer of Your dear children, according to Your gracious promise, and turn away the punishment which we rightly deserve; through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, our only Mediator, High Priest, Atoner, and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, forever and ever. Amen.

Next we find hymn texts appointed for the First Week, beginning on Sunday (I abbreviate for the sake of time):
1. O Herre Gott, begnade mich (Matth. Greit., 6 sts.) [Have mercy on me, Lord my God]
2. O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort (M. Luther, 8 sts.) [O Lord our God, Thy Holy Word]
3. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (M. Luther [et al.], 7 sts., including Ihr Anschläg…, So werden…, Verleih uns Frieden… and Gib unsern Fürsten…) [Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word]

1. Aus tiefer Not (Luther, 5 sts.) [From depths of woe I cry to Thee]
2. Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott (Anon., 7 sts., tune: Vater unser) [Remove from us, Lord, faithful God]
3. Gib Fried zu unser Zeit, O Herr (Wolfgang Capito, 3 sts.) [Grant peace, O Lord, in these our days]

1. Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott (Erh. Hegenwald, 5 sts.) [Have mercy on me, Lord my God]
2. An dich hab ich gehoffet Herr (Ad. Reisner, 7 sts.) [In Thee, Lord, have I put my trust]
3. Mag ich Unglück nicht widerstahn (M. Queen of Hung., 3 sts.) [May I my fate no more withstand]
1. Ach, Herr, mich armen Sünder (Anon., after Ps. 6; 8 sts.; tune: Keinen hat Gott verlassen) [Ah, Lord, on me, poor sinner]
2. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (M. Luther, 4 sts.) [A mighty fortress is our God]
3. Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein (Paul. Eber., 6 sts.) [When in the hour of utmost need]
1. Ach, Herr, straf mich nicht in deinen Zorn (Lud. Oler., after Ps. 6; 3 sts.) [Lord, punish me not in Thy wrath]
2. Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darerin (M. Luther, after Ps. 12; 6 sts.) [Ah Lord, look down from heaven, behold]
3. Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit (M. Luther, 3 sts.) [If God had not been on our side]
1. Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Conr. Hubert, 4 sts.) [In Thee alone, O Christ our Lord]
2. Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält (D. Just. Jon., 8 sts.) [Were God not with us at this time]
3. Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir ([Kas. Bienemann], 3 sts.; tune: Es spricht der Unweisen Mund, or: Es ist das Heil) [Lord as Thou wilt deal Thou with me]
1. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut ([Barth. Ringwald], 8 sts.; tune: Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, or: Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl) [Lord Jesus Christ, Thou highest good]
2. Ach Herr du allerhöchster Gott ([Barth. Ringwald, asc.], 14 sts.; tune: Kommt her zu mir) [Oh Lord, of all the God most High: an alphabetical hymn on the Law]
3. Geduld sollt han auf Gottes Bahn ([Lud. Hätzer], after Rom. 5; tune: Es woll uns Gott genädig sein) [Use patience e’er, God’s ways to fare]

Thus the first Week of a Six Week cycle. The remaining five weeks will be covered in subsequent posts.

(Translation © 2014 Matthew Carver, from Horae Christianae, Christliche Bet-stunden, das ist: Etliche Christliche Gebet und Gesänge, aus heiliger göttlicher Schrift Paul Böhm: Onoltzbach, 1628.)