Feast of Johann Franck, Heinrich Held, and Simon Dach (June 9)   2 comments

Luther Rose

Above:  Luther Rose

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHANN FRANCK (JUNE 1, 1618-JUNE 18, 1677)

German Lutheran Hymn Writer

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HEINRICH HELD (JULY 21, 1620-AUGUST 16, 1659)

German Lutheran Hymn Writer

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SIMON DACH (JULY 29, 1605-APRIL 15, 1659)

German Lutheran Hymn Writer

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In this post I return to one of  my favorite themes–people influencing each other positively.

Johann Franck (1618-1677) became one of the greatest hymn writers of this time.  His work marked the transition from objective hymns which reinforced doctrines to the dominance of subjective texts.  Franck’s emphasis was the union of a person’s soul with Jesus.  The collection of his hymns was Geitliches Sion (1674).

Franck entered the world at Guben, Brandenburg, on June 1, 1618.  His father, Johann Franck (Sr.), a councilor and an advocate there, died in 1620.  Our saints’s uncle, Adam Tielckau, the town’s judge, raised him.  Franck, educated at Guben, Cottbus, Stettin, and Thorn, entered law school at the University of Konigsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), in 1638.  That institution of higher learning was a shelter from the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  While at the university our saint avoided certain destructive excesses with the help of Heinrich Held (1620-1659) and Simon Dach (1605-1659).

Heinrich Held, born at Guhrau, Silesia, on July 21, 1620, felt the affects of the Thirty Years’ War during his youth.  His family had to flee Guhrau for Fraustadt, Prussia (now Wschowa, Poland), to escape religious persecution.  From 1637 to 1640 he studied law at the University of Konigsberg.

Simon Dach, born at Memel, Prussia (now Klaipeda, Lithuania), grew up in a family of humble means, for his father, a court interpreter, earned a modest income.  Dach attended the cathedral school at Konigsberg then departed for Wittenberg to escape an outbreak of the plague.  Later he studied at Magdeburg yet left that city to flee from the plague and the Thirty Years’ War.  Thus he came to study philosophy and theology at the University of Konigsberg in 1626.  He remained in that city for the rest of his life.  Dach earned his degree then became a private tutor.  In 1633 he started teaching at the cathedral school; three years later he became the co-rector there.  In 1639 Dach became the Chair of Poetry at the University of Konigsberg, from which he received his doctorate the following year.  He led a prominent group of poets which published eight books of songs and poems from 1638 to 1650.  One member of this group was Johann Franck.

Franck returned to Guben and his mother in 1640; the town had suffered greatly during the Thirty Years’ War.  He remained at that town for the rest of this life.  There he started practicing law in 1645, becoming a respected attorney in time.  He became a burgess councilor in 1648, the mayor thirteen years later, and a deputy to the Landtag (parliament) of Lower Lusatia in 1671.  He died at Guben on June 18, 1677.

Held, Franck’s fellow law student at Konigsberg, went on to study at Frankfurt and Leyden before traveling in The Netherlands, England, and France.  In 1647 he was a practicing attorney at Rostock.  The Thirty Years’ War, however, forced him to leave for Altdamm, a suburb of Stettin, Prussia (now Szczecin, Poland).  He became the clerk of Altdamm in 1657; later he served as the town treasurer and a councilor.  In 1659, however, Held became ill during a siege.  (The Swedish and Prussian governments disagreed about who had jurisdiction in the area.)  Our saint found refuge and a place to die at Stettin.  He, one of the best Silesian hymn writers, wrote Deutschen Gedichte Vartrab (1643) and received much recognition for his literary ability during his lifetime.

A portion of a Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) translation of one of Held’s Christmas texts follows:

Welcome, O my Savior, now!

Hail! My Portion, Lord, art Thou.

Here, too, in my heart, I pray,

Oh, prepare Thyself a way!

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King of Glory, enter in;

Cleanse it from the filth of sin,

As Thou hast so often done;

It belongs to Thee alone.

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As Thy coming was in peace,

Quiet, full of gentleness,

Let the same mind dwell in me

That was ever found in Thee.

The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), hymn #91

Dach’s final eighteen years of life contained personal commitment and a prolific output of hymns.  He married Regina Pohl, daughter of the court attorney, in 1641.  The couple had seven children.  And, after the death of his friend Robert Rotherbin in 1648, Dach ceased to compose secular poems and wrote more than 150 hymns instead.  He died at Konigsberg on April 15, 1659.

War shaped the times of these three men’s lives.  That context was often evident in their hymn texts, such as the following stanza by Heinrich Held in 1658, according to the 1866 translation by Charles William Schaeffer (1813-1896):

Holy Spirit, strong and mighty,

Thou who makest all things new,

Make Thy work within me perfect,

Help me by Thy Word so true;

Arm me with that sword of Thine,

And the victory shall be mine.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), hymn #149

Regardless of your context, O reader, may you find your source of faith to persevere and to glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBRIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MILAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Johann Franck, Heinrich Held, Simon Dach,

 and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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2 responses to “Feast of Johann Franck, Heinrich Held, and Simon Dach (June 9)

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  1. Pingback: Johann Franck | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: O How Blest Are Ye Whose Toils Are Ended! | GATHERED PRAYERS

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