Though we’re just starting December the First Sunday of Advent is already past and Christmas is in the air. Sarah Arthur’s Light upon Light (a book of readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) recalled the beautiful song “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”
I first heard “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” sung by the Amadeus Children’s Choir when our daughter was a member of it. At the beginning of the Christmas concert the children entered the auditorium singing it in their clear, pure voices. What a heavenly sound!
Since then it has become one of my favorite Christmas songs. Its beautiful lyrics and plaintive tune make it unforgettable.
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 (not measured) rhythm—make it so mysterious and exotic.
And then there are the words, translated from the Latin by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859). What theology! What praise! I’ve posted some of my favorites of the nine stanzas.
Of the Father’s Love Begotten
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.
And here it is in song…