Feast of Martin Rinckart (December 8)   Leave a comment

Archdeacon of Eilenburg, Saxony, Germany; died on December 8, 1649

Martin Rinckart (or Rinkart) was born at Eilenburg on April 23, 1586.  He studied theology at Leipzig, where he sang in a choir.  In 1611 he became Archdeacon of his hometown.

During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) many refugees fled to Eilenburg, a walled city.  During a siege Eilenburg became lethal place to be, for a pestilence killed about 8,000 people, and a famine followed the pestilence.  In 1637 Rinckart was the sole clergyman in the city, for one left and the others died.  Some days Rinckart said 40 or 50 funerals, burying about 4, 480 people, including his wife, over time.

Prior to the siege, pestilence, and famine, Rinckart had written a table blessing for his children.  Today, thanks to Catherine Winkworth (July 1 on this calendar of saints) we can sing this in English.  This table blessing consisted of the first two verses of “Now Thank We All Our God.”

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!

The third verse came later:

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.

The basis for this hymn is Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 50:22-24.  In the New Jerusalem Bible it reads:

And now bless the God of all things, the doer of great deeds everywhere,

who exalted our days from the womb and has acted mercifully towards us.

May he grant us cheerful hearts and bring peace in our time,

in Israel for ages on ages.

May his mercy be faithfully with us,

may he redeem us in our times!

When I wonder how Rinckart found the strength to carry on under such heavy burdens I discover the answer quickly.  All I have to do is read his hymn.

Loving God, we do not understand why misfortune befalls us sometimes, especially when we did nothing to cause it.  It is easy to fall prey to discouragement when these circumstances escalate consistently.  Yet, even then, not all is lost.  Through your grace, may we recognize the multitude of reasons we have for giving thanks, and do so.  In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Suffering Servant and our Lord, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 50:22-24

Psalm 34 or Psalm 34:1-10

Philippians 4:4-9

Luke 6:20-36




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