Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Of the Father's Love Begotten"

The Wisemen Guided by a Star - by Gustave Dore.

The song that greets you as you enter here is one of my favorite Christmas carols. I first heard "Of the Father's Love Begotten" the year my daughter was a member of the Amadeus Children's Choir and they sang it as part of their Christmas repertoire. It was magnificent sung by pure, high child voices.

The words are from a poem written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). The tune is plainsong (a type of old Catholic liturgical music), and from the 13th century. I think the plainsong aspect of it - it is monophonic and has a free vs. measured rhythm - gives it that sense of mystery and exoticism.

And then there are the words, translated from the Latin by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859). What theology. What praise. Here are some of my favorites of the nine 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!

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!

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!

Roby Furley Davis translated it from the Latin as well. All three versions (Latin, English versions 1 and 2) are here.

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