342. Of the Father's Love Begotten

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.

2 O that birth forever blessed,
when a virgin, blest with grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race;
and the babe, the world's Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore.

3 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.

4 Let the 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.

5 Christ, to you, with God the Father
and the Spirit, there shall be
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
and the shout of jubilee:
honor, glory, and dominion
and eternal victory
evermore and evermore!

Text Information
First Line: Of the Father's love begotten
Title: Of the Father's Love Begotten
Author: Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
Translator: John Mason Neale (1854)
Translator: Henry Williams Baker (1859, alt.)
Meter: 87 87 877
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Topic: King, God/Christ as; Christmas; Creation (2 more...)
Tune Information
Arranger: Charles Winfred Douglas (1916)
Meter: 87 87 877
Key: E♭ Major
Source: 12th cent. plainsong
Copyright: Arrangement © 1943, 1961, 1981, The Church Pension Fund.

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Rev. 22:13, Rev. 1:8, Rev. 21:6, Ps. 2:7, Heb. 1:5
st. 2 = Luke 1:35, Luke 2:11, Matt. 1:18, 21
st. 3 = Luke 1:70
st.4 = Ps. 148:1-2, Ps. 150:6

This hymn, with very ancient roots, is a confession of faith about the Christ, the eternal Son of God, whose birth and saving ministry were the fulfillment of ancient prophecies (st. 1-3). The final stanzas are a doxology inspired by John's visions recorded in Revelation 4-7 (st. 4-5). The text is based on "Corde natus ex parentis," a Latin poem by Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (b.Saragossa[?], Northern Spain, 348; d. c. 413).

Prudentius was the greatest Christian poet of his time. We know little of his life–only what he tells us in his own writings. He received a fine education, served as a judge and "twice ruled noble cities." He also tells of an appointment at the imperial court in Rome. But at the age of fifty-seven Prudentius bade farewell to this successful, prosperous life and vowed to spend the rest of his days in poverty. He served the church by meditating and writing, presumably at an unnamed monastery. All of his writings are in poetic form, including learned discussions in theology and apologetics. Most of the English hymns derived from his works, including "Of the Father's Love Begotten," were taken from his Liber Cathemerinon (c. 405), which consists of twelve extended poems meant for personal devotions, six for use throughout the hours of the day and six for special feasts.

Working from the Latin text, John Mason Neale (b. London, England, 1818; d. East Grinstead, Sussex, England, 1866) prepared a translation and published it as a six-stanza hymn in his The Hymnal Noted (1854). He retained the refrain "Evermore and evermore," an eleventh-century addition to the original Latin text.

Neale's life is a study in contrasts: born into an evangelical home, he had sympathies toward Rome; in perpetual ill health, he was incredibly productive; of scholarly temperament, he devoted much time to improving social conditions in his area; often ignored or despised by his contemporaries, he is lauded today for his contributions to the church and hymnody. Neale's gifts came to expression early–he won the Seatonian prize for religious poetry eleven times while a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, England. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1842, but ill health and his strong support of the Oxford Movement kept him from ordinary parish ministry. So Neale spent the years between 1846 and 1866 as a warden of Sackville College in East Grinstead, a retirement home for poor men. There he served the men faithfully and expanded Sackville's ministry to indigent women and orphans. He also founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, which became one of the finest English training orders for nurses.

Laboring in relative obscurity, Neale turned out a prodigious number of books and artic1es on liturgy and church history, including A History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland (1858); an account of the Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht and its break from Rome in the 1700s; and his scholarly Essays on Liturgiology and Church History(1863). Neale contributed to church music by writing original hymns, including two volumes of Hymns for Children (1842, 1846), but especially by translating Greek and Latin hymns into English. These translations appeared in Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851, 1863, 1867), The Hymnal Noted (1852, 1854), Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862),
and Hymns Chiefly Medieval (1865). Because a number of Neale's translations were judged unsingable, editors usually amended his work, as evident already in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modem; Neale claimed no rights to his texts and was pleased that his translations could contribute to hymnody as the "common property of Christendom."

The story of "Of the Father's Love Begotten" continues with the 1859 nine-stanza revision by Henry W. Baker (b. Vauxhall, Lambeth, Surrey, England, 1821; d. Monk1and, England, 1877), published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, Baker was ordained in the Church of England in 1844. He became the vicar of the Monkland parish in 1851, where he remained until his death. Because of his high-church beliefs in the celibacy of the clergy, Baker was unmarried. In the history of hymnody Baker is well known as the editor and chairman of the committee that compiled Hymns Ancient and Modern, the most significant British hymnal of the nineteenth century. Baker devoted at least twenty years of his life to this endeavor.
Considered an autocratic editor in his time, Baker freely changed hymn texts, but man' of his decisions have proven themselves over time. The 1875 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern contained thirty-three of Baker's original hymns and translations.

Liturgical Use:
Christmas season; without stanza 2 on many other occasions; because the original Latin poem concerns Christ’s miracles, could be sung during Epiphany or at worship services when the New Testament gospel is preached; stanza 4 and 5 make a fine doxology for the close of any service.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

DIVINUM MYSTERIUM is a plainsong, or chant, associated with the “Divinum mysterium” text in manuscripts dating from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. The tune was published in triple meter in Theodoricis Petri's Piae Cantiones (1582). Some hymnals retain the dance-like triple meter, while others keep the original unmeasured form of the chant. (It is one of the few chants in the Psalter Hymnal.)

Strong wave shapes characterize DIVINUM MYSTERIUM. Sing in unison with the accompaniment preferably played on manuals only. Sing also in speech rhythms, with some freedom in phrasing and tempo–not in the block-chord style of regular meter singing (thus no metronome marking).

The accompaniment was composed by Charles Winfred Douglas (b. Oswego, NY, 1867; d. Santa Rosa, CA, 1944), an influential leader in Episcopalian liturgical and musical life. Educated at Syracuse University and St. Andrews Divinity School, Syracuse, New York, he moved to Colorado for his health. There he studied at St. Matthew's Hall, Denver, and founded the Mission of the Transfiguration in Evergreen (1897). Ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1899, he also studied in France, Germany and England, where he spent time with the Benedictines of Solesmes on the Island of Wight (1903-1906). For much of his life Douglas served as director of music at the Community of St. Mary in Peekskill, New York, and had associations with cathedrals in Denver, Colorado, and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He promoted chanting and plainsong in the Episcopal Church through workshops and publications such as The American Psalter (1929), the Plainsong Psalter (1932), and the Monastic Diurnal (1932). His writings include program notes for the Denver Symphony Orchestra, various hymn preludes; organ, as well as the book, Church Music in History and Practice (1937). He was editor of both the Hymnal 1916 and its significant successor, Hymnal 1940, of the Episcopal Church. Douglas's other achievements include a thorough knowledge of the life and culture of Hopi and Navajo natives, among whom he lived for a number of years.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
More media are available on the text authority and tune authority pages.

Suggestions or corrections? Contact us