03 July 2008

Phos Hilaron's Many Faces...

...in LSB

In Evening Prayer it is offered literally:

Joyous Light of glory: of the immortal Father; heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ. We have come to the setting of the sun and we look to the evening light. We sing to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever. O Son of God, O Giver of life: the universe proclaims Your glory. (LSB 244)

And twice it appears in paraphrase in our hymnody:

O Gladsome Light, O grace
Of God the Father's face,
Eternal splendor wearing:
Celestial, holy, best,
Our Savior Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.

As daylight turns to night,
We see the fading light
Our evening hymns outpouring,
Father of might unknown,
Thee, His incarnate Son,
And Holy Ghost adoring.

To Thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Life-giver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify
And shall exalt forever. (LSB 888)

And also in Carl Daw's paraphrase (made popular in our circles by its inclusion in Hymnal Supplement 98):

O Light whose splendor thrills and gladdens
With radiance brighter than the sun,
Pure gleam of God's unending glory,
O Jesus, blest Anointed One.

As twilight hovers near at sunset
And lamps are lit and children nod,
In evening hymns we lift our voices
To Father, Spirit, Son: one God.

In all life's brilliant, timeless moments
Let faithful voices sing Your praise,
O Son of God, our Life-bestower,
Whose glory brightens endless days. (LSB 891)

At St. Paul's, Daw's paraphrase and its setting to the tune St. Clement is the hands down favorite (I suspect the St. Clement tune has a lot to do with that). But it is wonderful anyway you think about it that this ancient hymn - so old that St. Basil in *On the Holy Spirit* confessed it was ancient in HIS day - remains among the treasures of God's people. Here in the vast cornfields of the midwest of 21st century America we greet the evening light with the same hymn of praise of the Trinity that Christians have sung for century upon century beyond count. Is it any wonder that as we sing it, we feel the presence of the spirits of just men made perfect crowding round us and lifting their voices with ours?


Anonymous Lutheran said...

I first discovered this hymn on a CD by Paul Avgerinos, so I'm a little partial to the Book of Common Prayer's translation:

O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

There is definitely something uniquely stirring about this song in any translation. It has a mysterious quality (the "new-age" setting of the CD I linked to probably helps - lol), which reminds me of God's transcendence and of the rich history of the Church that has brought us hymns like these. It's absolutely a favorite of mine.

William Weedon said...

Mine too. How can singing words give you such peace? People have to experience it in is setting. As the sun is dropping, as the day's work has come to its end, and suddenly you realize you are standing with Adam and Even in the cool of the day and the One who is Joyous Light is coming to visit you, to give you a Light that no darkness can take away. No wonder that in the prayer following Phos Hilaron we cry out: For You are good and You love Your whole creation, and we Your creatures glorify You: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen.