The much-loved hymn, “Creator spirit, by whose aid,” is a free paraphrase of the famous Latin hymn, “Veni Creator Spiritus” (“Come, Creator Spirit”), ascribed to Rabanus Maurus in the 9th century. The paraphrase was made in 1693 by John Dryden, England’s first Poet Laureate. The hymn is a prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
1 Creator Spirit, by whose aid
the world’s foundations first were laid,
come, visit every pious mind;
come, pour thy joys on humankind;
from sin and sorrow set us free
and make thy temples worthy thee.
2 O source of uncreated light,
the Father’s promised Paraclete,
thrice holy fount, thrice holy fire,
our hearts with heavenly love inspire;
come, and thy sacred unction bring
to sanctify us while we sing.
3 Plenteous of grace, descend from high,
rich in thy seven-fold energy;
make us eternal truths receive
and practice all that we believe;
give us thyself that we may see
the Father and the Son by thee.
“Sevenfold energy” may be a reference to Isaiah 11:2-3, where seven aspects of the Spirit of the Lord are mentioned — “The spirit of Wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of power, the spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord”.
It may also be a reference to Revelation 4:5, “Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These were the seven spirits [or, sevenfold spirit] of God.” These have variously been interpreted as seven aspects of the work of the Spirit, seven distinct beings, or as a symbol of the perfection of the work of the Spirit.
The “uncreated light” may be a reference to the Orthodox doctrine of the uncreated light revealed on Mount Tabor at the transfiguration of Jesus—the divine energy that purified saints may sometimes taste and see on earth.
For me, this hymn beautifully expresses that ineffable longing and love that ever grow in the soul—that longing for sanctity, for love, for the crucible of heavenly fire, for God himself. That we may all give ourselves to him, so that he can give himself to us, grant O Lord.
~ Harry Plantinga