Luther of the Slavs

Today the church honors 17th Century hymn writer and “Luther of the Slavs” Juraj Tranovsky.

Tranovsky is heralded as the creator of Slovak hymnody. He studied at Wittenburg in 1607, and became a wandering educator, taking posts throughout Bohemia and Moravia.

Tranovsky was ordained in 1616, but soon toleration for Lutheranism in Bohemia came to an end, and he was imprisoned in 1624. The next year a plague came upon the world, and the following famine killed three of his children and caused the scattering of half of his congregation.

He was eventually called to a church in Liptov, Slovakia, and served there until his death in 1636 after a long illness. He was 46 years old.

He was a lover of poetry and a composer of many hymns, composing them in both Czech and Latin. His hymnal, the Cithara Sanctorum (Lyre of the Saints) appeared in 1636, and is the basis of Slovak Lutheran Hymnody to this day.

It is often forgotten that the Slovak tradition within Lutheranism continues even today, and has offered a great wealth of hymns, doctrinal distillations, and translations of important documents to the Lutheran movement throughout the ages.

We still sing, in the ELCA, one of his hymns to this day, ELW 602, “Your Heart, O God, is Grieved.”

In the midst of this pandemic, and in the shadow of the killing of Uvalde and Buffalo, the words of the first stanza speak something to me today.

“O God, Father in heaven, have mercy upon us. Your heart, O God, is grieved, we know, by every evil, every woe; upon your cross your forsaken Son our death is laid, and peace is won.”

-historical notes from Pfatteicher’s “New Book of Festivals & Commemorations”

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