Of the Father’s Love Begotten
Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, (c 348 – 413) translated by John Mason Neale
Here is a link to a recording: http://youtu.be/DHhlpan7V-I
- 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.
- Oh, that birth forever blessed When the Virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bare the Savior 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 ring Evermore and evermore.
- This is He whom Heaven-taught singers Sang of old with one accord; Whom the Scriptures of the prophets Promised in their faithful word. Now He shines, the Long-expected; Let creation praise its Lord Evermore and evermore.
- Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving And unending praises be, Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory Evermore and evermore.
This is the oldest hymn found in most hymn books. Prudentius started his life as a lawyer and was quite successful, rising to the rank of judge before leaving it all behind at the age of 57 to become and aesthetic and spend his remaining days writing religious poetry.
The Church had recently received official sanction from Emperor Constantine in 313. The first couple of centuries after this occurred were marked by significant theological struggles which would lay out the shape and form of our faith two millennium later. These verses are extracted from a much larger work in which Prudentius, with the precision of a legal mind, addresses one of the early heresies which threatened the early church (and which still is present to this day.)
Arius (c250 – 336) propagated one of the most contentious ideas which Prudentius addresses within the context of this poem. Arius believed that God the Father and the Son did not co-exist throughout eternity. Arius said that Jesus, the Son, did not exist before his birth. Jesus was nothing more than another created being. Though he may be divine, he was not equal to God the Father. Arianism, as this position came to be called, was also known as nontrinitarianism and forms of it can be found in Armstrongism (though less so more recently), Mormonism, and Unitarianism.
Within the very first line Prudentius proclaims the eternal aspect of the Son’s existence from before the world’s existence. He is the beginning and the end, the source of that have been and will be. The second stanza speaks of the virgin birth and the coming salvific role the Son will play out. Every voice on Earth and Heaven will declare His praises. The promised one from ages past has come, let all of God’s creation proclaim it. The Son, the Father, and the Holy Ghost are due unending and eternal praise, honor, and glory; evermore and evermore. Amen.