Tag Archives: Poetry

A Hymn for Midday (Qua Christus Hora Sitiit)

The following is my metrical translation of a Latin hymn from the Middle Ages. Its original author is anonymous; in fact, the date of its composition isn’t certain (probably sometime between the 12th and 16th centuries). Its usual time of singing, however, is the hour of Sext (or noon, the sixth hour). The first two lines reflect two different occasions. The first comes from John 4. Jesus enters the town of Sychar, and wearied from His journey, sits by Jacob’s well; John tells us that the time “was about the sixth hour.” (John 4:6). This is the setting for the “Samaritan Woman at the Well” episode in which our Lord Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink (John 4:7-14ff.). Of course, as the second line reminds us, Jesus also suffered on the cross during the sixth hour; thus, the author directs our minds to the Lord’s thirst on the cross. And as we remember how our Lord thirsted, we sing that we would be thirsty – not for water, but for righteousness in Christ (Matthew 5:6), and hungry – not for food, but for Christ Himself (John 6:48-51)! We who are united to Christ through faith by the working of the Holy Spirit are led and empowered by the Spirit to mortify the flesh (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5-6) and to put on christlikeness (Colossians 3:12-17; Ephesians 4:17ff.). This short song is an excellent reminder in the middle of the day that we are to live for Christ always!

Notes: 1) The lyrics may be sung to any tune; I prefer Old 100th (e.g., “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” or “Doxology”). 2) In the second stanza I translate “cosmic crime” rather than “sin” because the word that is used here is not the typical Latin word for “sin” but for “crime”, and as the crime is against the Lord, it is a crime of cosmic treason (to quote the late Dr. Sproul). 3) That being said, the song is not an exact translation, but near as I could be in this particular poetic form.

The hour on which the Christ did thirst,

Or on the cross did wrath endure –

Enrich us as we sing this hour

With deeper thirst for righteousness.

May we a hunger also feel

Which He Himself may satisfy,

That cosmic crime might make us sick

And virtue be our soul’s desire.

O may the Holy Spirit’s gift

So rush into us as we sing,

That carnal fires may be cooled

And cold minds boil with fervent heat.


In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

We gather all to meet the night,

And sing of Christ Who bore our sin;

With warm hearts we, in lantern’s light,

Amongst our blood-bought baptized kin,

Now hear our Father’s Word anew,

And are invited in to pray.

We stand beneath the fading hue,

Awaiting here the longed-for Day –

That morn which marks the darkness’ end!

O come, our King, make sorrow flee,

And comfort us, our Dearest Friend!

Until Your Dawn our own eyes see,

Let us endure this night in Thee.

Let us endure this night in Thee.


The title of this poem, “Lucernarium”, is essentially an old word for Vespers, the evening office when the lamps were lighted and the brothers gathered to pray and hear God’s Word. The inspiration for this poem is a wonderful lady who has just gone to be with the Lord. My dear sister Bertha was a great encouragement to me, and I wish I had been able to know her longer; she loved poetry – a favorite topic of conversation between us – but much more, she loved her Lord. I spoke to her a couple of days before she died, and she told me that she was looking forward to stepping out of the night and into God’s glorious morning. I praise the Lord for her faith and witness!


One day the scene will end,

my last lyrical line spoke forth.

My part at last will be done,

and I will leave the stage in silence

as the play goes on.

Scene after scene will unfold,

act after act,

as the lights grow slowly dimmer,

and night takes the stage.

I will wait,

with multitudes in the wings,

and with the winged multitudes,

to see the end,

when all the parts are played out,

and the curtains close

to open again on a perfect bow.

When my lines run out,

I will wait.

And those left onstage will wonder,

when I leave it,

what impassioned my performance.

What was it I found in the fury

of reason, emotion, and parts partly played?

Love’s fire