Nun danket alle Gott

“Now Thank We All Our God” has made its appearance once before in this blog.Eilenburg, Germany

Eilenburg was known as a center for German Reformation, prosperous and even boasting a walled exterior by the late sixteenth century. It was greatly favored by its Duke, George of Saxony.

Martin Luther called it a blessed lard pit.

Then came the Thirty Years’ War. By that time, Martin Rinkart (1586 – 1649) had become one of four pastors serving the town. Hundreds of refugees fleeing the fighting had taken shelter in Eilenburg and soon disease spread, culminating in the Great Pestilence. Afterwards came famine and it was not uncommon to see wretches in the street fighting over dead animals to eat.

One of the pastors fled the town and refused to return. The other two died, leaving Rinkart to officiate at their funerals in addition to many, many more, almost 4,500 in all. Not even his wife was spared.

Nevertheless, Rinkart still found time to compose prayer. The following offer of thanksgiving is his most famous, written to comfort his children:

Happy ThanksgivingNow thank we all our God

With hearts and hands and voices;

Who wondrous things hath done,

In whom this world rejoices.

Who, from our mother’s arms,

Hath led us on our way,

With countless gifts of love,

And still is ours today.

Now Thank We all Our God

This is a departure, to be sure, from our normal discourse on English country houses and salons.

Now Thank We all Our God is a recognized tune for a variety of Christian hymns.  It was used at the royal ceremony celebrating the marriage of the Crown Prince of Denmark.

What is it about the ancient tunes like Nun Danket Alle Gott that pulls us back into the past, when wars and famine killed the children and wiped out entire villages?  How can we all thank our God under such circumstances?

The return of the Ten Thousand invokes our hope for the future.  In this most moving chapter of German post-war history, we can thank our God that redeems and devises our Thanksgiving.

Even if it is only a partial redemption for a nation’s debt.

the return of German POWs