“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
– Colossians 3:16
Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs have always been a part of the Christian life. The Apostle Paul refers to the practice as “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
For centuries, many of these were either committed to memory or, during the Middle Ages, sung only by ‘professionals’ in Latin in the Roman Catholic church where there was no congregational singing.
Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable type printing press in the mid-15th century was a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation and other movements that brought people out of the darkness and into the marvelous light of having their own copies of God’s Word in their own language.
January 13th, 2019 is the 518th anniversary of the first-known hymnal in a common language. The Moravian hymnal was produced by Bishop Luke of Prague in 1501 at the request of Jan Hus.
The hymnal included 89 Moravian hymns, some of which had been written by Jan Hus himself. The Moravian church helped to reclaim the long-lost custom of congregational singing in a language the worshippers could understand.
In addition to the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, many of the original hymns also taught sound doctrine, awakening the singers to a clearer understanding of Bible teaching which, theretofore, had been inaccessible directly to them.
One of the major doctrinal issues promoted in the original hymnal was that Communion should not be limited to the priesthood, but that lay people should be participants as well.
The original Moravian hymnal paved the way for the publication of hymnals in other languages, most notably one produced by Martin Luther in 1519 (words only) and 1524 (with musical notes) and the rise of English psalters in the second half of the 16th century.
“Jesus Christ our Blessed Savior” by Jan Hus appeared in both the Moravian and Luther’s hymnals – and still appears in some hymnals today.
Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior,
Turned away God’s wrath forever;
By His bitter grief and woe
He saved us from the evil Foe.
As His pledge of love undying
He, the precious food supplying,
Gives His body with the bread
And with the wine the blood He shed.
Praise the Father, Who from heaven
Unto us, such food hath given
And, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death His only Son.
If thy heart this truth professes,
And thy mouth thy sin confesses,
His dear guest thou here shalt be
And Christ Himself shall banquet thee.
To read more news on Hymns on Missions Box, go here.
- Moravian Church Archives, Luke of Prague
- Christian Post, This week in Christian history: MLK, ‘Hour of Power,’ first vernacular The hymnal
- Christianity Today, Singing the Old, Old Story
- Biblical Encyclopedia, Luke of Prague
- The Christian Post, First vernacular hymnal published – January 13, 1501
- History, Gutenberg Bible