328. O Come, O Come, Immanuel

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1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. [Refrain]

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. [Refrain]

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. [Refrain]

5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. [Refrain]

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. [Refrain]

7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. [Refrain]

Text Information
First Line: O come, O come, Immanuel
Title: O Come, O Come, Immanuel
Refrain First Line: Rejoice! Rejoice!
Meter: LM with refrain
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ;
Topic: Biblical Names & Places: David; Biblical Names & Places: Jesse; Deliverance (8 more...)
Source: Latin, 12th cent.; tr. composite
Tune Information
Adapter: Thomas Helmore (1854)
Meter: LM with refrain
Key: e minor
Source: Processionale, 15th century

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23
st. 2 = Isa. 11:2, 1 Cor. 1:30
st. 3 = Deut. 10:17, 1 Tim. 6:15, Ex. 19:16-20
st. 4 = Isa. 11:1, 10, Rom. 15:12
st. 5 = Isa. 22:22, Rev. 3:7
st. 6 = Num. 24:17,Rev. 22:16
st. 7 = Jer. 10:7, Rev. 15:4
ref. = Isa. 59:20

This ancient Advent hymn may date back to a community of fifth-century Jewish Christians and perhaps was part of their Hanukkah festival. The text does include many elements of the Hanukkah celebration-remembrance of wilderness wandering, darkness and death, but also celebration of light (the use of candles) and, above all, wonderment about the hope for Christ's return ("O").

In the ninth century the text entered the Roman liturgy for use during Advent. In the week before Christmas the medieval church regularly sang seven "Great 'O' Antiphons" in conjunction with the Magnificat during Vespers. Each of these antiphons included an Old Testament name for the coming Messiah. During the twelfth or thirteenth century these words were put in hymn form, in Latin, and the "Rejoice" refrain was added. The stanzas included in the Psalter Hymnal were historically scheduled for December 23 (st. 1, Immanuel); Dec. 17 (st. 2, Wisdom); December 18 (st. 3, Lord of might); December 19 (st. 4, Branch of Jesse); December 20 (st. 5, Key of David); December 21 (st. 6, Bright Morning Star); December 22 (st. 7, Desire of Nations).

John Mason Neale (PHH 342) translated this Latin verse into English and published it in his Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851). In subsequent years other hymnal editors made various changes, including changing the order of the stanzas. Neale also gave copious scriptural references for the text in his Words of the Hymnal Noted (1855).

Although the Latin phrase in the refrain "nascetur pro te, Israel" has been translated "shall come to you," it really means "shall be born to you." Thus the original Latin hymn celebrated the first coming of the Christ. The translation, however, permits use of the hymn to celebrate both first and second comings.

Liturgical Use:
During Advent, singing the hymn in full or choosing certain stanzas for different Sundays; an Advent hymn festival using various arrangements from other hymnals such as Carols for Choirs.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

VENI IMMANUEL was originally music for a Requiem Mass in a fifteenth-century French Franciscan Processional. Thomas Helmore (b. Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England, 1811; d. Westminster, London, England, 1890) adapted this chant tune and published it in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854). A graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford,
England, Helmore was ordained a priest in the Church of England, but his main contribution to the church was in music. He was precentor at St. Mark's College, Chelsea (1842-1877), and master of the choristers in the Chapel Royal for many years. He promoted unaccompanied choral services and played an important part in the revival of plainchant in the Anglican Church. Helmore was involved in various publications of hymns, chants, and carols, including A Manual of Plainsong (1850) and The Hymnal Noted (with John Mason Neale).

VENI IMMANUEL is in the Dorian mode and could be sung in harmony throughout, but the preferred practice is to sing the stanzas in unison and the refrain in parts. For example, sing the hymn antiphonally, perhaps including organ-alone stanzas. On stanza 4 the organ could play an arrangement of the tune while the congregation meditates on the text.

Chant tunes are intended to be sung in speech-rhythm, so sing this hymn freely and do not hesitate to let the "Rejoice" phrases ring through the church! Use light accompaniment on the stanzas and full, bright accompaniment on the refrain. Play and sing the line "Immanuel shall come to you" as one phrase. Organists may want to use an accompaniment in more of a chant style; for example, Hymnal 1982 (56) contains an accompaniment suited to unison singing of the stanzas. Accompanists could still use the Psalter Hymnal harmonization for part singing on the refrain.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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