Fortress Press

A Widower's Lament: The Pious Meditations of Johann Christoph Oelhafen

A Widower's Lament

The Pious Meditations of Johann Christoph Oelhafen

Ronald K. Rittgers (Author)


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Lament is essential to human thriving. It allows us to cope with significant loss, an inescapable feature of our mortal existence. Lament is the passionate outpouring of deep sorrow and grief over such loss, which helps us avoid being completely overcome by the strong emotions that come with it. Lament is cathartic and constructive. It is a necessary step in coming to terms with great loss and moving forward in life. Not to lament is not to live--or at least not to live very fully, deeply, or well.

This book deals with one instance of Christian lament in the late Reformation by exploring the efforts of a talented yet little-known layman to cope with the death of his beloved wife. For the first time, it provides full access to the remarkable work of private devotion that he authored to express his lament. A work of haunting candor, impressive artistry, and searching faith, The Pious Meditations is an extraordinarily rare and valuable source that has received very little scholarly attention. It furnishes both fresh insight into life in the past and important resources for life in the present. Written in a period that knew no radical separation between the academy and the church, it was informed by the author's experience in both, and can continue to speak to both today.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506424804
  • eBook ISBN 9781506424811
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 318
  • Publication Date September 21, 2021


"In a work deeply reminiscent of Lewis's A Grief Observed, we gain here a glimpse into early modern piety, the family, indeed love, refracted through the lens of loss, pain, and grief. Rittgers has done scholars of early modernity, cultural history, the history of the family, and emotions a great service in finding, then translating this deeply personal story of one man's loss."

David Whitford, Baylor University

"In this four-hundred-year-old book of meditations, we travel with a new widower through his first year of widowhood. Amid the agony of loss, he turns to God to seek comfort for his distress, drawing both on the religious resources of his Lutheran faith and on his own creativity. Rittgers is a trustworthy guide to Oelhafen's world and heart."

Anna M. Johnson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

"Rittgers has given us access to a remarkable early Lutheran document of Christian piety as a new widower copes with loss and grief and looks for consolation. This sensitive and deeply personal book will enrich any reader, whether an interested non-specialist or, thanks to the superb introduction and copious annotations, a professional historian."

Kenneth G. Appold, Princeton Theological Seminary

Table of Contents



List of Figures


The Loss of AMICO

ICO and His City

The Pious Meditations

The Pious Meditations and Modern Scholarship

The Pious Meditations as an Evangelical Lament

Genre and Audience

A Note on the Translation, Dates, and Terms

Pious Meditations on the, Alas, Most Sorrowful Bereavement


Notes to the Introduction

Notes to the Epilogue