The Hymn of the Day for Trinity 26 is a translation of the Dies irae (“day of wrath”), a medieval Latin Sequence of nineteen stanzas sung at the funeral mass. This Sequence alludes to various portions of Scripture, including St. Matthew’s separation of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46, the Gospel for Trinity 26), St. Luke’s description of the end times (Luke 21:25–36), and St. Paul’s prophecies of the last trumpet and of the rising of the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, the Epistle for Trinity 25).
The first four stanzas of the chorale narrate the events of the last day, emphasizing the final judgment and the punishment for being without faith. The final three stanzas beautifully illustrate how Jesus’ work delivers us from the terrors of hell: He writes our names in the book of life, intercedes for His own before the Father, and hears His people’s prayers to hasten their salvation.
While the Gregorian melody associated with the Dies irae is as foreboding and terrifying as chant can be, the chorale melody is more comforting, albeit with an undercurrent of dread. Additionally, in some parts of Germany the melody was also associated with the chorale Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (text at LSB 556), creating a relationship between these two texts in which one illuminates the other.