September 8: Nikolai Grundtvig; Bishop and Hymnwriter, 1872
September 8, 2010 4 Comments
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About this commemoration
Born in 1783, the son of a Lutheran pastor, Grundtvig inherited from his father a lifelong appreciation for classical Lutheran orthodoxy rooted in sacramental practice, a stark contrast from the dry rationalism common to Danish Lutheranism at the time. From his mother, Grundtvig received a fascination with the literature, legends, and poetry of the Norse.
Grundtvig was a student all his life. His academic passions were largely in history and theology, but education, he believed, opened one’s heart and mind to a vigorous love of life. Grundtvig also believed in the power of poetry. He thought that poetry had the capacity to speak to the souls of human beings more deeply than prose, particularly in matters of the heart and the life of faith. During his lifetime he composed more than a thousand hymns, a number of which are still sung today: “Built on a rock the Church doth stand,” “O day full of grace,” and “God’s word is our great heritage.”
Grundtvig’s father was pastor of a large congregation and as he aged he needed assistance. Grundtvig preached a trial sermon at his father’s church during which he launched a scathing attack on Danish rationalism. The sermon met with a severe response and he was widely denounced. Nonetheless the survived the resulting spiritual crisis and was ordained in 1811. He served as his father’s curate until his father’s death in 1813. After a long season with no work, Grundtvig served several short-term pastorates that usually came to an end because of his commitment to a Lutheran orthodoxy rooted in sacraments and liturgy. He believed that the dry, rational, almost gloomy approach favored at the time did not penetrate the depths of the human soul.
Toward the end of his life, Grundtvig’s vision was taking hold and his influence upon both church and nation continued to increase. He was made a bishop in 1861. He died in 1872.
Almighty God, who didst build thy Church upon a rock: Help us remember, with thy hymn writer Nikolai Grundtvig, that though steeples may fall and buildings made by hands may crumble, Jesus makes our bodies his temple through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Help us to recognize Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, that we may join our voices to the eternal alleluia; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Almighty God, you built your Church upon a rock: Help us remember, with your hymn writer Nikolai Grundtvig, that though steeples may fall and buildings made by hands may crumble, Jesus makes our bodies his temple through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Help us to recognize Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, that we may join our voices to the eternal alleluia; through the same Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Proverbs 3:1–2, 5–8
Preface of God the Holy Spirit
Text From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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