Tuesday, December 19

Of the Father's Love Begotten

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is Of the Father's Love Begotten by the fifth century poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). It is a whole course in incarnational theology in just nine short stanzas:

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framed; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

3 comments:

W. Mark Whitlock said...

I grew up in a stalwart, conservative Presbyterian church near Atlanta. The organist-choirmaster there was an amazing man of God and musician named Stephen Ortlip. We called him Mr. O. There are certain hymns that bring a flood of memories.

We always sang this hymn early in advent. The adult choir would be in the balcony to sing antiphonally. The men would sing the first verse a cappella. The women would join in harmony on verse 2. As the verse grew to its end, the organ would support the vocals.

Between verses 2 and 3, the organ would swell and repeat the melody driving us toward a key change.

The congregation would stand for verse 3 as the choir processed.

This has always been one of the more powerful hymns in my memory—like “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” on Palm Sunday. These stanzas are deeply ingrained in my memory and the Lord calls them to mind at His good pleasure.

Thank you for reminding me this Christmas.

The Scylding said...

I love this hymn! However, it was not really sung in the circles I grew up in - the first time I heard it was on an album by John Michael Talbot. His rendition of it is superb - sung simplistically in a near-chant.

Mark said...

I used this carol as an outline for my middle school Bible class this week. Profound poetry. Breathtaking theology.