Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Here is the first hymn of this wonderful Christmas season!

Title: Of the Father's Love Begotten

Tune: Divinum Mysterium


Composer: 13th Century Plainsong, Mode V

Author: Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, (348-413); Tr, J.M. Neale (1818-1866), Sir Henry William Baker (1821-1877)

               Written in the 5th century, "Of the Father's Love Begotten," was based off of a poem written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentias who was the greatest Christian poet of his time. The text of this poem, with centuries of history behind it, is a confession of faith to the Christ, the Son of God, whose birth and saving ministry's came as a fulfillment of ancient prophecies. The text comes from Marcus Aurelius C.P.'s poem "Corde natus ex parentis," which was originally written in Latin, and was later translated by Dr. John Mason Neale (verses 1-3), and published in his 1851 collection, Hymnal Noted. Though the text was translated well, a doxology was added several years later by Sir Henry William Baker (the final verses are considered the doxology), and published in his 1861 collection, Hymns Ancient and Modern. These two translations serve to support the text that is printed in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship. the text is originally written as "Corde natus ex parentis," which translates to "Of the parent sole begotten," which the word "parent" was used as a more inclusive synonym for God in the Latin text. Later, the text was changed to "Father," giving the text a more exclusively male impression. The text for this hymn surpasses controversy as one of the church's timeless texts.
               Publishing many texts under the prefix "Marcus," Prudentias is one of the most prominent and most prolific authors of Latin sacred poetry in its early days. Not much is known of Prudentias outside of what he wrote about himself. What we do know, is that he was born in northern Spain, and was a well educated man. During his life, Prudentias served as a lawyer, a judge, civil servant, and a scholar. When Prudentias was 57 years old, he retired from the world, and withdrew to a monastery where he committed the rest of his life to prayer and writing for the church. Though it did not seem that Prudentias had done this for any particular reason (most of the time, people would join a monastery later in life because of the nasty and vulgar lives they had lived before), it can be said that he had discovered the meaning and worth that is associated with the material world, and that it paled in comparison to a life in the church. Though we do not have much more information about Prudentias than this, we can attribute his great success in poetry to his decision to leave the world behind.
               John Mason Neale is known for his translation of Latin and Greek hymns in the 19th Century. When Neale was young, he grew up reading Isaac Watts's collection Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (1715), which was full of texts that would come to cause Neale to have an aversion to studying hymnody entirely. The collection contained similar texts as:
"There is an Hour when I must die,
Nor do I know how soon will come;
A Thousand Children, young as I,
Are call'd by Death to hear their Doom."
Song X (Westermeyer, p 25)
After reading such texts, Neale was determined to write an alternative to these text, thus causing him to publish Hymns for children in 1842, the same year in which he married Sarah Norman Webster (which was the year after he was ordained). Because of lung disease, Neale was forced to spend quite a bit of time in Madeira, which gave him access to a well stocked library. As Neale continued to ponder hymnody, he began to realize that hymns did not only belong to Watts and Evangelicals but were a part of the earliest history of the church and included in it's daily prayer (Westermeyer, p 26). After this discovery, Neale turned his attention away from what he found to be "trashy" in Evangelical hymnody, and began looking to the breviary, which he found to be the liturgical book for daily prayer, and thought of this as the core of the church's hymnody. With his capability of learning languages (it is said that Neale could speak nearly 20 different languages), it is no wonder that Neale was able to provide the English world with so many wonderful translations of Greek and Latin hymns. 
               Most of Neales hymns were published in Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851), and his collection The Hymnal Noted (1851 and the second edition in 1854), which was published with a version containing only the text, as well as a version containing  notes in Gregorian notation on a four-line staff. Thomas Helmore (known for the tune Veni, Emmanuel) was responsible for a version of this text that included harmonizatoins in the Accompanying Harmonies to the Hymnal Noted (1858, Parts I and II were bound together as one).  During Neale's life, he held a "high church" view, which would cause him to be place in an out-of-the-way place by his "low church" bishop in 1946. He was placed as the Warden of Sackville College in East Grimstead, which looked after old men who needed care all the time (Westermeyer, p 26). During his lifetime, Neale organized an abbey for the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, which cared for the poor, the sick, and the needy, as well as opened and orphanage and school for girls. Though Neale did these things for many years, he spent most of his life translating hymns. After his death in 1866, Neale's daughter, Mary Sackville Lawson, gathered all of his translations and published them in her 1914 collection Collected Hymns, Sequences, and Carols of John Mason Neale.
               Born May 27th, 1821, in London, Henry Williams Baker was the son of the well-known Admiral Sir Henry Loraine Baker. Baker graduated from Trinity College at Cambridge his bachelors degree in 1844, which is the same year he took holy orders as the vicar in Monkland, Herefordshire (he also received his masters in 1847). Though he was still young, Baker remained at this posting for the rest of his life. Baker's name is known well in the world of hymnody, but he did not write many hymns himself. He is also well known for having composed the text for "Angels We Have Heard On High." 
               Named after a trope on the Sanctus, the tune "Divinum Mysterium" most likely comes from the thirteenth century. The tune was originally written in a triple meter, and was first published with such markings in Theodocricis Petri's collection Piae Cantiones, which was published in 1582. The tune was not paired with the text until the 19th century, when it was published with J.M. Neale's English translation of the text. Though Petri published the tune in triple meter with alternating half and quarter notes, the tune was redone by Winfred Douglas (1867-1944). Douglas took the tune and equalized the note values and published the tune in The Episcopal Hymnal (1916). Douglas was an Episcopal musician and priest who had done extensive studying and editing of Plainsong. The version that was published by Douglas is the most commonly published version today.

The Text:
(1) 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.

(1) Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt,
quaeque post futura sunt.
Saeculorum saeculis.

(2) Oh, 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.

(2) O beatus ortus ille,
virgo cum puerpera
Edidit nostram salutem,
feta Sancto Spiritu,
Et puer redemptor orbis
os sacratum protulit.
Saeculorum saeculis.

(3) 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 ring
Evermore and evermore.

(3) Psallat altitudo caeli,
psallite omnes angeli,
Quidquid est virtutis usquam
psallat in laudem Dei,
Nulla linguarum silescat,
vox et omnis consonet.
Saeculorum saeculis.

(4) This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

(4) Ecce, quem vates vetustis
concinebant saeculis,
Quem prophetarum fideles
paginae spoponderant,
Emicat promissus olim;
cuncta conlaudent eum.
Saeculorum saeculis.

(5) Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

(5) Tibi, Christe, sit cum Patre
hagioque Pneumate
Hymnus, decus, laus perennis,
gratiarum actio,
Honor, virtus, victoria,
regnum aeternaliter.
Saeculorum saeculis.

My Take on the Hymn:

               This hymns is one of great celebration and is very joyful in nature. Celebrating the coming of Christ, this text takes us from when Christ was expected, all the way to when Christ is taken into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. The text talks about Christ being the means to all ends, which to me rings a very profound meaning: Christ is the only way, and no other can take his place or lead you to salvation as it is said in John 14: 6, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me.'" Christ has come to us this Christmas season as it was promised us by prophets of old, but we cannot reach our heavenly place unless we accept Christ in our lives. It is one thing to acknowledge that Christ does exist, but it is entirely different to acknowledge that without Christ, we would not be here today, and our lives would be a lot darker. The third stanza speaks to Christs power that he has over everything, "Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King." Everything that is in earth was created by God the Father, and he has rule over everything. The fourth verse is interesting as well, regarding the topic of gifts that have been given to people. The verse says that God taught us to sing, and with those voices, we will sing of Gods praise. God has given the world so many things, but each and every thing that we have received was given us so that we may worship Christ. The world is a wonderful place, but everything will eventually pass away. Knowing this, we must live each and every day with the thought that one day, we will be home in Heaven, and everything we have here on earth was given so that we may spread the good news of Christ, and that we may better serve one another, and by doing so, show the love that Christ has given us!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!


Julian, John. "Of the Father's Love Begotten." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.

Julian, John. "J. M. Neale." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.

Julian, John. "Sir H. W. Baker." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.

Julian, John. "Aurelius Clemens Prudentius." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.

""Of the Father's Love Begotten"" "Of the Father's Love Begotten" Lutheran Hymnal, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2012.

Westermeyer, Paul. "Of the Father's Love Begotten." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 25+. Web.