Please turn your hymnals to number 116 and join with the clarinets in “To The Realms of Glory”.
First Line: To the Realms of Glory
Name: MACH’S MIT MIR, GOTT. (EISENBACH)
Meter: 8 7, 8 7, 8 8.
Music: Johann Hermann Schein
Text: Johan Olaf Wallin, 1779-1839
Tr. Claude William Foss, 1855-1935
Clarinet Arrangement: 116-ToRealmsOfGlory
It’s kind of odd that this tune, “Mach’s Mir, Gott (nach deiner Güt)”, Schein’s Hymn for the “sick and dying” is used here as a setting for a text that is celebrating Ascension, or the return of Jesus Christ to Heaven after his resurrection.
The tune itself is an odd affair that I struggled to find phrasing for. Maybe it is that disconnect between intention of the tune and the text that I was sensing, before I even looked up its history.
The text does have some nice turns of phrase that will echo through many other hymns, gospel and otherwise. I especially like the first verse.
1. To realms of glory in the skies
I see my Lord returning,
While I, a stranger in the earth,
For heaven am ever yearning.
’Mid toil and sorrow here I roam,
Far from my heavenly Father’s home.
2. Yet visions of the promised land
By faith my soul obtaineth;
There shall I dwell forevermore
Where Christ in glory reigneth;
In mansions of that bright abode,
The city of the living God.
3. In that blest city is no night,
Nor any pain or weeping;
There is my treasure, there my heart,
Safe in the Savior’s keeping;
In Heaven, my risen Lord, with Thee
May all my thought and living be.
4. How blessèd shall those servants be,
O Lord, at Thy returning,
Whose hearts are waiting still for Thee,
Whose lamps are trimmed and burning;
Them wilt Thou take to dwell with Thee
In joy and peace eternally.
Anyway, regarding Ascension itself, there’s some deep and very old tradition related to this holiday, that probably goes back to pre-Christian traditions in celebration of Spring.
The Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, also known as Ascension Thursday, Holy Thursday, or Ascension Day, commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is one of the ecumenical feasts (i.e., universally celebrated) of Christian churches, ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost. Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, the fortieth day of Easter (following the count given in Acts 1:3), although some Christian denominations have moved the observance to the following Sunday.
The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. Eusebius seems to hint at the celebration of it in the 4th century. At the beginning of the 5th century, St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. Frequent mention of it is made in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Constitution of the Apostles. The Pilgrimage of Aetheria speaks of the vigil of this feast and of the feast itself, as they were kept in the church built over the grotto in Bethlehem in which Christ is traditionally regarded as having been born. It may be that prior to the 5th century the fact narrated in the Gospels was commemorated in conjunction with the feast of Easter or Pentecost. Some believe that the much-disputed forty-third decree of the Synod of Elvira (c. 300) condemning the practice of observing a feast on the fortieth day after Easter and neglecting to keep Pentecost on the fiftieth day, implies that the proper usage of the time was to commemorate the Ascension along with Pentecost. Representations of the mystery[clarification needed] are found in diptychs and frescoes dating as early as the 5th century.
Certain customs or rituals were connected with the liturgy of this feast, such as the blessing of beans and grapes after the Commemoration of the Dead in the Canon of the Mass, the blessing of first fruits, afterwards done on Rogation Days, the blessing of a candle, the wearing of mitres by deacon and subdeacon, the extinguishing of the paschal candle, and triumphal processions with torches and banners outside the churches to commemorate the entry of Christ into heaven.
The antiquarian Daniel Rock records the English custom of carrying at the head of the procession the banner bearing the device of the lion and at the foot the banner of the dragon, to symbolize the triumph of Christ in his ascension over the evil one (and can also be interpreted by analogy as the triumph of England over Wales). In some churches the scene of the Ascension was vividly reproduced by elevating the figure of Christ above the altar through an opening in the roof of the church. In others, whilst the figure of Christ was made to ascend, that of the devil was made to descend.
In England it was once common for churches to “beat the bounds” on this day, and some continue the custom (e.g. the church of St Michael at the North Gate in Oxford). Members of the parish walk round the parish boundaries, marking boundary stones (e.g. by writing on them in chalk) and hitting them with sticks. According to some, it was once the young boys of the parish that were hit with sticks instead of the stones. Knowledge of the parish boundaries was once important, since churches had certain duties such as the care of children born out of wedlock in the parish.
In some countries (at least in Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (since the 1930s), Haiti, Iceland, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Namibia, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Vanuatu) it is a public holiday; Germany also holds its Fathers’ Day on the same date.
Coinciding with the liturgical feast is the annual commemoration by the Christian labour movement (especially syndical, in Belgium) of the encyclical Rerum novarum issued by the Roman Catholic Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891.
In Venice the ceremony of the Wedding with the Sea was traditionally celebrated on the Feast of the Ascension, while in Florence the Feast was observed by having a dove slide down a string from the high altar of the cathedral to ignite a large decorative container filled with fireworks in front of the main entrance of the cathedral.
In Portugal on “Wheatstalk Thursday”, small bundles of poppies and wheatstalks are picked in the fields and placed at home until next year, for good fortune.
*Schein, Johann Hermann, son of Hieronymus Schein, pastor at Griinhain, near Annaberg, in Saxony, was born at Grünhain, Jan. 20,1586. He matriculated at the University of Leipzig in 1607, and studied there for four years. Thereafter he acted for some time as a private tutor, including two years with a family at Weissenfels. On May 21, 1615, he was appointed Capellmeister, at the court of Duke Johann Ernst, of Sachse-Weimar; and in 1616 he became cantor of I3t. Thomas’s Church, and music director at Leipzig, in succession to Seth Calvisius (d. Nov. 24, 1615). This post he held till his death, at Leipzig, Nov. 19, 1630.
Schein was one of the most distinguished musicians of his time, both as an original composer, and as a harmoniser of the works of others. As a hymnwriter he was not so prolific, or so noteworthy. Most of his hymns were written on the deaths of his children or friends, e.g. on seven of his children, and on his first wife. They appeared mostly in broadsheet form, and were included, along with his original melodies, in his Cantional oder Gesang-Buch Augspurgischer Confession, Leipzig, 1627; 2nd ed., 1645. [Both in Wernigerode Library.]
Those of Schein’s hymns which have passed into English are:—
i. Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt. For the Dying. First published, as a broadsheet, at Leipzig, 1628, as a Trost-Liedlein á 5 (i.e. for 5 voices), &c. [Berlin Library.] The words, the melody, and the five-part setting, are all by Schein. It was written for, and first used at, the funeral, on Dec. 15, 1628, of Margarita, wife of Caspar Werner, a builder and town councillor at Leipzig, and a churchwarden of St. Thomas’s. It is in 6 stanzas of 6 lines; the initial letters of 11. 1, 3, in st. i.-iv., forming the name Margarita; and the W of st. v. 1. 1 standing for Werner. In Schein’s Cantional, 1645, No. 303 (marked as Trost-Liedlein, Joh. Herm. Scheins, á 5), and later hymn-books, as e.g. the Unverfäschter Liedersegen, 1851, No. 830, st. vi. was omitted. It is Schein’s finest production, and one of the best German hymns for the sick and dying. Translated as:—
Deal with me, God, in mercy now. This is a good and full translation by Miss Winkworth, in her Chorale Book for England, 1863, No. 191, set to Schein’s melody of 1628.