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Woman of The Reformation: Elizabeth Cruciger

By October 31, 2012 2 Comments

Not gonna lie, I may have started my morning off with this song. Which many of my 30-something year old, non-religious, cosmopoltin friends would say “Jes, we thought you were a modern day pastor. What’s up with the ol’ school hymn?” Oh I am a “modern day” pastor but in order to know where one is going one must look back to their roots. So today, Martin Luther, thank you for my morning jam….

I know John Calvin is our man but honestly I have always thought that Martin Luther would have been more fun to party with. His hutzpah has always been attractive to me. And Luther is the guy that started the original Pub Theology nights which are sweeping theological circles today. There’s nothing as sexy as people engaging theology over a pint of beer. Bottoms up!

But this post isn’t about Martin Luther or John Calvin (God love ‘em). This post is about the women of The Reformation, particularly Elisabeth Cruciger.

Cruciger, along with her husband Caspar Cruciger, was an active theological participant in Martin Luther’s “Table Talks” and Phillip Melanchthon regarded her as a bright woman. She is the first female poet and hymn writer of The Reformation.

Born of nobility in Pomerania (mixture of Germany and Poland), she was a nun at Belbuck. She first learned of the new Reformation theology from John Bugenhagen who was a colleague of Luther.

Mary Jane Haeming wrote an article about Cruciger in The Sixteenth Century Journal titled “Elisabeth Cruciger (1500? – 1535): The Case of The Disappearing Hymn Writer.” Haeming writes:

Later it was sometimes attributed to Andreas Knoepken. Unwillingness to credit a woman and reluctance to credit Cruciger because of the activities of her husband and son may account for this. The rise and fall of apocalyptic expectations in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries played a key role. Intially Cruciger excluded apocalytipctic emphases. The discussion also reflects thinking about women’s roles. When apocalyptic expectation was high, the story of Cruciger authoring a hymn revealed a tension between traditional roles and new roles allowed by the end times.[1]

Her hymn Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God) is one of the three popluar hymns that she wrote. The following is the English translation of her hymn translated by Anglican priest Arthur Tozer Rusell in 1850:

(1)  The only Son from heaven, foretold by ancient seers, by God the Father given, in human form appears. No sphere his light confining, no star so brightly shining As he, our Morningstar.

(2)  Oh, times of God appointed, Oh bright and holy morn! He comes, the king anointed, the Christ, the virgin-born, Grim death to vanquish for us, to open heav’n before us And bring us life again.

(3)  Awaken, Lord, our spirit to know and love you more, In faith to stand unshaken, in spirit to adore, That we, through this world moving, each glimpse of heaven proving, May reap is fullness there.

(1)  O Father, here before you with God the Holy Ghost, And Jesus we adore you, O pride of angel host: Before you mortals lowly cry: “Holy, holy, holy, O blessed trinity!”[2]

To Elizabeth Cruciger, to Argula von Grumbach, to Jeanne d’Albret, to Marie Dentière, to Olimpia Fulvia Morata, and to the many other courageous women of The Reformation who are too often overlooked – Happy Reformation Day! To all the women today who are Reformed and ever Reforming, Happy Reformation Day! May women continue to carry on robust, challenging, insightful, and prophetic leadership today. Propelled by the Spirit of God, may we be courageous in always Reforming the Church according to the Word of God. 

It’s too early for beer in the city, so I raise my coffee in celebration of our Protestant birthday with all of you. Bottoms up!


[1] Early Protestant Spirituality by Scott H. Hendrix page 186.

[2] “Elizabeth Cruciger (1500?-1535): The Case of the Disappearing Hymn Writer” by Mary Jane Haemig. The Sixteenth Century Journal Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 2001) p. 21-44.

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.


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