Christmas Day: Of the Father’s love begotten

Enjoy this stunningly beautiful hymn for Christmas Day, a raucous celebration of the Incarnation.

nativity iconOf 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 words 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!

O that birth for ever blessèd,
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!

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!

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!

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 and high thanksgiving,
and unwearied praises be;
honor, glory and dominion,
and eternal victory,
evermore and evermore!

Words: Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413); translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1854; and Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877), 1861.

Here’s a recording of a congregation singing at a brisk clip (starts around 0:25). Here’s Gerre Hancock’s fantasy on the tune.

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3 Responses

  1. Mary Keenan says:

    One of my all time favorites! Thanks, Scott.

  2. Fr Alexander says:

    Hey Scott — One of my favorite Christmas hymns as well! Two questions: First, are you familiar with the RF Davis translation which appears in The English Hymnal? I prefer the JM Neale translation, but this one is interesting and beautiful as well. Here is a link to the text:

    Second, any thoughts on the syncopated melody line of the 1982 versus the unsyncopated one in the 1940? For what it’s worth, the 1982 version follows the English Hymnal tradition.



  3. Scott Gunn says:

    Hi John,

    I was vaguely familiar with Davis’s work, as I have a few recordings of English choirs singing it. It was interesting to compare all those versions (on the link you provided). After all that, I’m pretty happy with what’s in the Hymnal 1982, perhaps due to familiarity.

    We sang the rhythmic and isorhythmic versions at Christ Church this year, once on Christmas Day and one on Sunday morning (Christmas 1). I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, though I believe I enjoy the rhythmic version a tad more.

    Do you have a favorite?