Ulrich Zwingli: Plague Hymn

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The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

The Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, contracted the black death while caring for the sick in 1519. Like many who suffer today from COVID-19 which tends to cause difficulty breathing and take weeks to beat, he thought the plague might claim his life.

Christian History reports: “His famous “plague hymn” recounts his sense of trust and then his joy at regaining health. Stanzas 1–4 were written as the disease first struck, stanzas 5–8 as his health deteriorated. Upon his recovery he finished the final four quatrains.”

1. Help me, O Lord,
My strength and rock;
Lo, at the door
I hear death’s knock.

2. Uplift shine arm,
Once pierced for me,
That conquered death.
And set me free.

3. Yet, if thy voice,
In life’s midday.
Recalls my soul,
Then I obey.

4. In faith and hope
Earth I resign.
Secure of heaven.
For I am Thine.

5. My pains increase;
Haste to console;
For fear and woe
Seize body and soul.

6. Death is at hand.
My senses fail.
My tongue is dumb;
Now, Christ, prevail.

7. Lo! Satan strains
To snatch his prey;
I feel his grasp;
Must I give way?

8. He harms me not,
I fear no loss,
For here I lie
Beneath thy cross.

9. My God! My Lord!
Healed by the hand.
Upon the earth
Once more I stand.

10. Let sin no more
Rule over me;
My mouth shall sing
Alone to thee.

11. Though now delayed,
My hour will come.
Involved, perchance.
In deeper gloom.

12. But, let it come;
With joy I’ll rise,
And bear my yoke
Straight to the skies.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) battled with the black death at age 35 and survived. His work was not done. He would lead the reformation of the church in Switzerland and meet the Lord at age 47.

I pray this hymn touches you deeply as it did me. I can do nothing but pray after reading it over and over. Join me.

Father in heaven, hear our prayer for help as pains increase all over the world. Though death snatches many, we fear not. We will bear our yoke and serve others, including the sick, with joy in our hearts. Our confidence in Christ’s love and work for us and the promise of heaven sustains us. Bring deliverance by your Holy Spirit. But if not, we fear no loss for we are secure at the foot of the cross. In your mercy, come to our aid. Amen.