I’m fairly certain that this hymn is the oldest one that we’ve ever sung together for #hymnofthemonth, and generally one of the oldest hymns sung today. Its author, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, was born in the year 348 in northern Spain, thirty-five years after Christians had been granted freedom to worship without persecution under the Edict of Milan. Prudentius was well educated, trained to be a lawyer and served as an important judge. He climbed the ranks of government, even to the position of court official for the Christian Emperor Theodosius. Prudentius had a life filled with importance, wealth, and prosperity but he still found himself desperately feeling that his life up to that point had been a waste. At age 57, Prudentius decided to retire from his government position and commit the rest of his years to solitude, poverty, and serving the Church by writing poetry and hymns. His work was beautiful and regarded as the greatest Christian poetry of his time. Prudentius originally wrote the hymn we’re focusing on in Latin and each of the original nine stanzas make up a rich confession about the Savior Jesus and His redemptive work. It was set to a plainsong chant-like melody, Divinum Mysterium (Divine Mystery), which dates back as far as the twelfth century.
I know what many of you are probably thinking… Nine verses of an ancient hymn? Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially during the Christmas season. I thought the same thing, friends. And I have to tell you, I don’t know if we’ll get through every verse in my house, but I long for a quieter, slower Christmas… The kind of Christmas where we have time to sit by the fire and ruminate on beautiful poetry from the 4th/5th century. If there was ever a year for that kind of rest and focus, it would be 2020, right? It’s of course totally up to you if you would like to sing the full nine verses or a shortened version. We’ve provided both versions for you in your free printable pack! Let’s rejoice in the coming of our King and sing together the beautiful mystery that is the incarnation of our Lord!
You may or may not be familiar with this hymn. Either way, we invite you to spend this month meditating on its truths. To get you started, we’ve provided free printable lyrics, music and copywork — all found here! Also, you can find fresh versions of the hymn on our YouTube channel that you and your family can sing along with. There are loads of fresh versions at the top of our hymn of the month playlist and lots of amazing Christmas hymns on this playlist!
If you are new to this community, welcome! It is a great time to join in and make family worship a priority if you haven’t already. You are encouraged to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn (following your daily time in the Scriptures and in prayer) whether it is first thing in the morning, or around the dinner table or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. You can let us know how it’s going by posting either a video or a photo on Instagram. Just tag it with #happyhymnody! As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! God bless you all this month as you worship together as a family!
With so much love, April