O Jesus, True and Only Head

By Hannah Engwall

“O Jesus, True and Only Head” (O Jesu, einig wahres Haupt) by Johann Mentzer (1726). Tune (O Jesu, einig wahres Haupt (Reuter)) by Fritz Reuter (1658-1734). Setting by Hannah Engwall (2023). Polyphonic, SATB.
Recording of stanzas 1, 2, 6, and 7.

The 200th anniversary of the Reformation happened during the lifetime of Pastor Johann Mentzer, and it seems he wrote the hymn “Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head” for the occasion, though it wasn’t published until later. The original hymn was seven stanzas (only four are commonly in modern English hymnals) and made reference to “our jubilee” in stanzas 4 and 7. For the background on a year of jubilee, see Leviticus 25:8-17. The Church took up the term “jubilee” to refer to anniversaries that occur in increments of 50 years. Mentzer wrote the text to fit with the tune for “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” In the 19th century the idea arose that Luther’s tune for “A Mighty Fortress” should only be used with that hymn, and so Fritz Reuter wrote a new tune that fits Mentzer’s hymn. We commissioned Matthew Carver to make a full English translation of the text (see Full Text below). We included the fifth stanza simply for its historic value, though it could be sung in a country with a Christian king. We are pleased to present an original polyphonic setting by Miss Hannah Engwall.

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Practice Tracks

Full practice track
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Alto practice track
Tenor practice track
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Full Text

1 O Jesus, true and only Head
Of all Thy congregation,
Which unto Thee in faith has fled
And stands on Thee unshaken,
Her steadfast Rock alone,
Never overthrown,
Though all the world must fall
And crumble after all:
Oh, hear us, hear us, Jesus!

2 Let us, Thy faithful few, who dare
To claim Thee and confess Thee,
Abide forever in Thy care
And, undivided, bless Thee!
Thy Baptism and Thy Word
And Thy Supper, Lord,
Among us keep unstained
Until the end ordained,
For our great consolation.

3 Help us to serve Thee every hour
Sincerely and uprightly,
And let that light of saving pow’r
Which has till now shone brightly
Still work repentance true,
And give radiance new
That strengthens faith within,
Destroys the pow’r of sin,
And makes good, faithful Christians.

4 Oh, may we for that Gospel dear
Withhold not blood nor treasure,
But by it bear the cross severe
With confidence and pleasure!
Give us a constant will,
That no good or ill
May sunder us from Thee,
Till we our jubilee
Enjoy with Thee in heaven.

5 From Thee, the Mercy-seat, O Lord,
Let blessings all-abounding
Upon our ruler’s house be poured,
His crown with rays surrounding
Of Thy bright majesty,
That he safe may be
And all his foes defy
And sure defense supply
For us, Thy needy children.

6 To Christendom Thy mercy send,
Increase Thy congregation;
For us, Thy lowly flock, contend
And be our Preservation;
Cast all offense away,
Bring back all that stray,
All that resist Thee break;
Of all distresses make
At last a blest conclusion.

7 O Jesus, this we ask of Thee,
In Thy name, Jesus, crying;
Oh, hear us, Jesus, graciously,
Thy “Yea, Amen” supplying!
Thou, Jesus, art our Head;
To Thee we are wed;
Then keep Thy Word that we
May have our jubilee
Both now and ever after.

Translation by Matthew Carver, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

  • Hannah Engwall

    Hannah Engwall is a teacher at Mount Hope Lutheran School in Casper, WY, and holds a Parish Music degree from Concordia University Wisconsin. She enjoys directing choirs, teaching high school music theory, and teaching organ lessons. Her favorite hymn is TLH 292, “Lord Jesus Christ, with Us Abide.”

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