Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day: Divinum mysterium

Here's the beautiful hymn "Of the Father's Love Begotten," sung to the melody Divinum mysterium.  This hymn first appeared in this form in the Piae Cantiones, a collection of hymns and songs from the late medieval period and published in 1582.  Piae Cantiones was compiled by Finnish clergyman Jaakko Suomalainen; it contains several other well-known hymns, including the Christmas carol, Gaudete (video of that one here).

This melody comes, I believe, from the 11th Century.  Here it's sung by the Choir of Christ Church Episcopal New Haven, CT, in an unusual and quite beautiful arrangement:



This is a translation by Roby Furley Davis (used in the 1906 English hymnal) from the original Latin of the Aurelius Prudentius poem Corde natus ex Parentis ("Of the Father's Heart Begotten").

1. Of the Father’s heart begotten
    Ere the world from chaos rose,
He is Alpha: from that Fountain,
    All that is and hath been flows;
He is Omega, of all things
    Yet to come the mystic Close,
        Evermore and evermore.

2. By his word was all created;
    He commanded and ’twas done;
Earth and sky and boundless ocean,
    Universe of three in one,
All that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
    All that breathes beneath the sun,
        Evermore and evermore.

3. He assumed this mortal body,
    Frail and feeble, doomed to die,
That the race from dust created
    Might not perish utterly,
Which the dreadful Law had sentenced
    In the depths of hell to lie,
        Evermore and evermore.

4. O how blest that wondrous birthday,
    When the Maid the curse retrieved,
Brought to birth mankind’s salvation,
    By the Holy Ghost conceived,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
    In her loving arms received,
        Evermore and evermore.

5. This is he, whom seer and sybil
    Sang in ages long gone by;
This is he of old revealed
    In the page of prophecy;
Lo! he comes, the promised Saviour;
    Let the world his praises cry!
        Evermore and evermore.

6. Sing, ye heights of heaven, his praises;
    Angels and Archangels, sing!
Wheresoe’er ye be, ye faithful,
    Let your joyous anthems ring,
Every tongue his name confessing,
    Countless voices answering,
        Evermore and evermore.

7. Hail! thou Judge of souls departed;
    Hail! of all the living King!
On the Father's right hand throned,
    Through his courts thy praises ring,
Till at lest for all offences
    Righteous judgement thou shalt bring,
        Evermore and evermore.

At the entrance into the Choir
8. Now let old and young uniting
    Chant to thee harmonious lays
Maid and matron hymn thy glory,
    Infant lips their anthem raise,
Boys and girls together singing
    With pure heart their song of praise,
        Evermore and evermore.

9. Let the storm and summer sunshine,
    Gliding stream and sounding shore,
Sea and forest, frost and zephyr,
    Day and night their Lord alone;
Let creation join to laud thee
    Through the ages evermore,
        Evermore and evermore. Amen.

Here are the original Latin words, along with J.M. Neale's earlier English translation:
Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt,
quaeque post futura sunt.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
Ipse iussit et creata,
dixit ipse et facta sunt,
Terra, caelum, fossa ponti,
trina rerum machina,
Quaeque in his vigent sub alto
solis et lunae globo.
Saeculorum saeculis.

Corporis formam caduci,
membra morti obnoxia
Induit, ne gens periret
primoplasti ex germine,
Merserat quem lex profundo
noxialis tartaro.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
O beatus ortus ille,
virgo cum puerpera
Edidit nostram salutem,
feta Sancto Spiritu,
Et puer redemptor orbis
os sacratum protulit.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
Psallat altitudo caeli,
psallite omnes angeli,
Quidquid est virtutis usquam
psallat in laudem Dei,
Nulla linguarum silescat,
vox et omnis consonet.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
Ecce, quem vates vetustis
concinebant saeculis,
Quem prophetarum fideles
paginae spoponderant,
Emicat promissus olim;
cuncta conlaudent eum.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
Macte iudex mortuorum,
macte rex viventium,
Dexter in Parentis arce
qui cluis virtutibus,
Omnium venturus inde
iustus ultor criminum.
Saeculorum saeculis.
   
Te senes et te iuventus,
parvulorum te chorus,
Turba matrum, virginumque,
simplices puellulae,
Voce concordes pudicis
perstrepant concentibus.
Saeculorum saeculis.

Tibi, Christe, sit cum Patre
hagioque Pneumate
Hymnus, decus, laus perennis,
gratiarum actio,
Honor, virtus, victoria,
regnum aeternaliter.
Saeculorum saeculis.


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 framèd;
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 blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
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!

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!

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:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

(Divinum Mysterium was used as the Compline hymn at York for Christmastide - but that hymn used a different melody:


I have no recording of this tune, though.)

Here's another version, sung at the "Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne Kantorei. Recorded in Kramer Chapel on the campus of CTS, Ft. Wayne."  The words they're using are closer to Neale's translation above, but not exactly the same.



Here's more about the hymn from the Wikipedia page linked above:
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.[2]

Merry Christmas!

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