Of the Father's Love Begotten

Our hymn for January 1 Vespers will be "Of the Father's Love Begotten," which has been found in most Christian hymnals for centuries.  The hymn was originally written by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, who was a Roman Christian poet.  Prudentius was born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis (now Northern Spain) in 348.  He died after 405, possibly around 413.  

Prudentius practiced law with some success, and was twice provincial governor, before the emperor Theodosius I summoned him to court. Towards the end of his life (possibly around 392) In retirement, Prudentius became an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from animal food.  He wrote poems, hymns, and controversial works in defense of Christianity.

Prudentius’ hymn addressed the Arian heresy, which had many adherents at the time.  It expresses belief in the Trinity in the very first line. Christ is both fully human and fully divine, and rather than simply being made by God, he was “begotten” of the very same substance. This hymn, so often associated with Christmas, is thus a hymn of proclamation, calling us to sing out our faith – “every voice in concert ring, evermore and evermore!”

John Mason Neale translated Prudentius's poem in 1851, and his music editor, Thomas Helmore, paired it with the medieval Latin plainsong melody known as "Divinum mysterium."  Divinum mysterium first appeared in manuscripts as early as the Tenth Century.

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!

O that birth forever blessèd, 
When the virgin, full of grace, 
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, 
Bore the Saviour 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!

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

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