The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Nunc Dimittis

Rev. John Cennick
12 December 1718 - 4 July 1755

Published as

Nunc Dimittis
Some Lines
Of the Revd. Mr. Cennick
(Who departed this Life, July 4, 1775)

Which he wrote some Time ago, and carried with him in his Pocket-Book, where they were found after his Decease.

London: Printed and Sold by M. Lewis, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1756

Now, Lord, in Peace with Thee and all below,
Let me depart, and to Thy Kingdom go.
As, earnestly fatigued in Journeys, I
Have wish'd to see my Town to lodge in, nigh :
So earnestly my weeping Eyes I turn
Towards Thy House; and languish, pine and mourn.
Nor can I help it, for within I feel
A Thirst to see Thee, quite insatiable.
Tis true, Thy Blessings make my Cup run o'er,
I find Thy Favours daily more and more ;
When Troubles me afflict and bow me down,
I am never forsaken or alone :
Thou kissest all my Tears and Griefs away,
Art with me all Night long, and all the Day.
I have no Doubt that I belong to Thee,
And shall be with Thee to Eternity.
For firm my Heart believes, as Thou art true ;
I am Thy pleasant Child, Thy Son, I know.
But take it not amiss, O be not griev'd,
I want from Pilgrimage to be reliev'd ;
I want to be dissolv'd, and no more here
A Wand'rer be, a banishd'd Foreigner.
Sign my Dismission, with a tender Sense
That Thou with my Retiring dost dispense.
I would not Thee offend, (Thou know'st my Heart)
Nor one short Day before Thy Time depart :
But I am weary, and dejected too,
O let me to Eternal Sabbath go.
In no Chastisement, Darkness, or Distress,
In no Confusion, but in inward Peace,
With Thy full Leave and Approbation, I
Entreat to lay my Staff and Sandals by.
No sudden Stroke, or violent Fever give,
Which may me of my Senses quite bereave ;
Lest I should with my Lips offend or err,
Or grieve such tender Brethren who are near :
No, let my fleeting Soul, and my last Word
Confirm my Assurance, and exalt my Lord.
Allow me this, and sign my glad Release,
Let my Heart hear Thee say, Depart in Peace.
I long to see Thee, Son of Man, and be
A pardon'd Part of Thy dear Family.

As, oft, at Sea, when Wind and Tide was fair,
I've seen the less'ning Mountains disappear,
Exceeding sick, yet glad to move so fast,
In hopes e're long on th' other side to rest ;
Till the glad Sailors spy their Native Shore,
And the Land-Breezes my lost Strength restore ;
Then on the Deck how pleased have I seen
My port, and thought, (as if on Shore I'd been)
I see my Friends ! I kiss them, and partake
Their welcomes with their Arms about my Neck !
Till all is realiz'd, and on the Strand
Chearful and thankful lo ! they see me land ;
Then I my Sickness and Fatigues forget,
And what I fancied's real and compleat :
Just so I long my Passport to receive,
And have Permission this sad World to leave.
Like some poor Wind-bound Passenger I wait,
He thirsts for Home, nor Food, nor Sleep is sweet :
So I with love-sick Anguish, Tears and Sighs,
Oft (my Heart melting) look towards the Skies.
No Words express the Throbbings of my Breast,
To fly away and ever be at rest.

If I am by, when one in Faith expires,
Or hear their happy Exit, it inspires
My eager Soul their Footsteps to pursue,
And fain that Night I'd make my Exit too.
I scarce reflect, they now are with the Lamb,
But down my Cheeks the saltry Riv'lets stream.
I long to kiss that Hand, which once me bless'd ;
Those Feet that travell'd to procure my rest ;
Those Lips that me confess'd ; and that dear Head,
That bow'd when on it all my Sins were laid.

O Lamb ! I languish till that Day I see,
When Thou wilt say,
Come up and be with ME.
Now Twice-seven Years have I Thy Servant been ;
Now let me end my Service, and my Sin.
Forgive all my Mistakes, and Faults, and Shame,
Neglect, and all things where I've been to blame,
Let the same Kiss my Absolution seal,
And Pow'r convey, all what is bruis'd to heal.
Then loose the Silver Cord with gentle Pain,
Whil'st I on Thy dear Bosom smiling lean ;
Let the Death-Sweat, and sick and fainty Chills,
(With chearing Views of the Eternal Hills)
And Limbs grown cold, and breaking Eye-strings tell,
But a few Moments, and thou shalt be well !
Thine everlasting Arms be underneath,
Thy bleeding Wounds disarm the Tyrant Death :
Thy own cold Sweat my Clam and Sweat wipe off,
Thy Cross my Bed, and Pillow then make soft.
Thy Ministers of flaming Fire attend,
And sing me sweetly to my journey's End.
Then let me hear, then bid my Friends adieu ;
Say, to thine Honour, “Thou art good and true !
I've overcome ! I live for evermore !
My Sorrows now, and Pains and Tears are o'er.
The Angels wait – the Saviour Calls – Farewell,
I go to Him in endless Peace to dwell.”
Then let my Breath grow short, my Strength decay,
The Ruttles low and Pulses die away;
So fall asleep – and soaring, stoop and view
The less'ning World now left, and all below.
Mean while shall I awake in Jesus's Arms ;
Above the reach of Slanders, Wrongs, or Harms ;
And with my dear Acquaintance gone before,
Stay with the Lamb, and go from Him no more.

FINIS.

Notes:

Text transcribed from a scan of the 1756 publication, and checked from the version printed in The Moravian Church Miscellany, No. 10, October 1851, Vol. 2, pp. 310-12.

Bearing the same title as the “Canticle of Simeon” (or “Song of Simeon”), from Luke 2:29-32, which celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth. Two Presentation carols based on this Canticle are In Peace And Joy I Now Depart (translation of Luther's Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin), Light of the Gentile Nations, while Simeon is mentioned in numerous others, including A Little Child Is Born Tonight, Away, Dark Thoughts, Awake My Joys, The King of Glory Sends His Son, and Hail to the Lord Who Comes. See also: Candlemas.

Simeon, a devout Jew who had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Savior, saw Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the consecration of their son. He took Him into his arms, and gave praise. Here is the account from the Gospel of Luke:

 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
      you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel."

 The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2 22-35, NIV; footnotes omitted.)

The King James Version of the prayer is:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

The name of the prayer bears a Latin title from the first two words of this passage in the Nova Vulgata (verses 29-32):

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace,
quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum,
quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum,
lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

This passage has often been re-set to poems, prayers and songs. Traditionally, it is a part of the evening Compline worship devotions in numerous denominations including the Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans. Likewise, it is frequently found in Liturgies of Christian denominations, usually after the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Nunc Dimittis has 35 musical settings listed at the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL); see Nunc_Dimittis <http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Nunc_dimittis>, accessed June 30, 2009.

It is described as the third of the three Great Evangelical Canticles of the New Testament, with the first being the Magnificat (The Canticle of Mary) and the second being the Benedictus (The Canticle of Zachary). Simeon's prayer of praise alludes to several passages in the Old Testament, including Isaiah 40:5, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 52:10 and Psalm 98:2 (NIV).

The first three words of the last line, “Lumen ad revelationem,” serve as an antiphon for the Canticle formerly used in the Roman Catholic Mass, as well as for the Gloria Patri and Sicut, and is still found in parts of the liturgy for February 2.

Sources:

Gasquet, Francis Aidan Cardinal. "Revision of Vulgate." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 30 Jun. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15515b.htm>, accessed June 30, 2009.

Henry, Hugh. "Nunc Dimittis." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 30 Jun. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11159a.htm>, accessed June 30, 2009.

John Cennick.” The Cyberhymnal at Hymntime. <http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/c/e/n/cennick_j.htm>, accessed June 30, 2009. A few of his hymns can be found at this location. Rev. Cennick edited four hymnals in his short lifetime.

"John Cennick." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 17 Jun 2009, 21:42 UTC. 17 Jun 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Cennick&oldid=297036052>, accessed June 30, 2009.

John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology. Second Edition. (1892, 1907). Julian described Rev. Cennick as a prolific and successful hymn-writer, and outlined his movement from the Methodist Church to the Moravian Church. In addition to his four hymnals, his son-in-law. Rev. J. Swertner, published additional hymns in the Moravian Hymn Book of 1789, of which he was the editor. Additional hymns from Rev. Cennick are found in his Sermons, 2 Volumes, 1753-1754. Dr. Julian noted that many of Cennick's stanzas were excellent, but that his output was, overall, “most unequal,” but added that “some excellent centos might be compiled from his various works.”

King James Version of The Holy Bible. (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, no date). The inscription on the Presentation page was dated May 18, 1952.

Luke 2:22-35,” New International Version, Bible Gateway <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%202&version=31>, accessed June 30, 2009.

New International Version (NIV) of The Holy Bible (Cedar Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001, 2005).

"Nunc dimittis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 27 Jun 2009, 06:04 UTC. 27 Jun 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nunc_dimittis&oldid=298890501>.

Revised Standard Version of The Holy Bible (Dallas, Texas: The Melton Book Company, 1952)

Saltet, Louis. "St. Jerome." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 30 Jun. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08341a.htm>, accessed June 30, 2009.

"Evangelium secundum Lucam," Novum Testamentum, Nova Vulgata, Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio <http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_nt_evang-lucam_lt.html>, accessed June 30, 2008.

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