Your Sunday Hymn: Divinum Mysterium

I just love this ancient Latin hymn Divinum Mysterium – also known as “Of the Father’s love begotten” sung here by The Sons of Orpheus, Houston’s Premier Male Vocal Ensemble.

This Celtic instrumental rendition is also gorgeous – (and gives you a truer sense of the lovely melody):

Of the Father’s Heart Begotten alternatively known as Of the Father’s Love Begotten is a Christmas carol based on the Latin poem Corde natus by the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius, from his Liber Cathemerinon (hymn no. IX) beginning “Da puer plectrum,” which includes the Latin stanzas listed below.[1]

The ancient poem was translated and paired with a medieval plainchant melody Divinum mysterium. Divinum mysterium was a “Sanctus trope” – an ancient plainchant melody which over the years had been musically embellished.[2] An early version of this chant appears in manuscript form as early as the 10th century, although without the melodic additions, and “trope” versions with various melodic differences appear in Italian, German, Gallacian, Bohemian and Spanish manuscripts dating from the 13th to 16th centuries.[2]

Divinum mysterium first appears in print in 1582 in the Finnish song book Piae Cantiones, a collection of seventy-four sacred and secular church and school songs of medieval Europe compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen and published by Theodoric Petri.[3] In this collection,Divinum mysterium was classified as “De Eucharistia” reflecting its original use for the Mass.[4]

The text of the Divinum mysterium was substituted for Prudentius’s poem when it was published by Thomas Helmore in 1851. In making this fusion, the original meter of the chant was disturbed, changing the original triple meter rhythm into a duple meter and therefore altering stresses and note lengths. A later version by Charles Winfred Douglas corrected this using an “equalist” method of transcription, although the hymn is now found in both versions as well as a more dance-like interpretation of the original melody.

Lyrics:

Of the Father’s love begotten

Author: Aurelius Prudentius

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 fram?d; 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 bless?d, 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!

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