Epiphany Hymns Note

Several of us at various points have noted the interesting Gospel Antiphon for Second Vespers of the Feast of the Epiphany:

We keep this day holy in honor of three miracles: this day a star led the Wise Men to the manager; this day water was turned into wine at the marriage feast; this day Christ willed to be baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation, alleluia.

What I had never quite realized until last night is that this seasonal understanding is further reinforced by the Office hymns: Iesus Refulsit Omnium and Hostis Herodes Impie (known in these latter days in the Urbanized hack-up version Crudelis Herodes).

Thus in Iesus Refulsit Omnium, stanzas 2 and 3 discuss the arrival of the magi and their gifts to the Babe, stanzas 4-6 deal with the Baptism of our Lord, and stanza7 recalls the miracle at Cana.

In Hostis Herodes Impie, stanza 2 presents the magi, stanza 4 the Baptism of our Lord, and stanza 7 the miracle at Cana. Furthermore stanza 5 points to other miracles that take their place within the old lectionaries Epiphany season by noting “he healed sick bodies and revived corpses”.

Crudelis Herodes is similar but the versions in my Liber and ’62 Missal contain fewer stanzas; in this case stanza 2 is the magi, stanza 3 is the Baptism, and stanza 4 is the miracle at Cana.

Suddenly I find myself wondering the chicken and egg question—which came first: did the antiphon produce the hymns, the hymns the antiphon, or do they all derive from an earlier common source?

24 thoughts on “Epiphany Hymns Note

  1. Derek the Ænglican

    First place to look, of course, is the sermons of Leo the Great on the Epiphany. I know he’s got some and I’ve read them at some point—but not with an eye to this particular question…

    He’s ideal because he’s fairly early, tends to preach directly to the feast, and can give us a sense whether to look earlier or later.

  2. bls

    (It must be the hymn first, though. The stuff I’ve found all says that one “Caelius Sedulius”, from the 5th century, wrote a “long alphabetic hymn” (and I think this is it) that was eventually broken up into pieces for use at Christmas and Epiphany.

    The hymns are, I think, first: A Solis Ortus Cardine (which may have been the original name of the longer version?); then Hostis Herodes impie; then I think there is something else, but I can’t remember what.

    But I’m glad to have found the alphabetic hymn at last, and simply by accident (prompted by this post of yours)! See, this is why I read the blogs….

    Anyway, I think the extensive penning of antiphons, etc., must have come after the hymnody, which was very early; remember that Paul puts down several early hymns even in the letters. Hymns are universal, and must have come first, don’t you think?

  3. Christopher

    Though not directly related, check this out:

    From A Composition of Patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem.

    …For in the preceding feast we saw you as a babe, but in the present one we see you full and perfect man, our God, made manifest as perfect God from perfect God. For today the moment of the feast is here for us and the choir of saints assembles here with us, and Angels keep festival with mortals. Today the grace of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove dwelt upon the waters. Today the Sun that never sets has dawned and the world is made radiant with the light of the Lord. Today the Moon with its radiant beams sheds light on the world. Today the stars formed of light make the inhabited world lovely with the brightness of their splendour. Today the clouds rain down from heaven the shower of justice for mankind. Today the Uncreated by his own will accepts the laying on of hands by his own creature. Today the Prophet and Forerunner draws near, but stands by with fear seeing God’s condescension towards us. Today the streams of Jordan are changed into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today all creation is watered by mystical streams. Today the failings of mankind are being washed away by the waters of Jordan. Today Paradise is opened for mortals and the Sun of justice shines down on us. Today the bitter water as once for Moses’ people is changed to sweetness by the presence of the Lord. Today we have been delivered from the ancient grief, and saved as the new Israel. Today we have been redeemed from darkness and are filled with radiance by the light of the knowledge of God. Today the gloomy fog of the world is cleansed by the manifestation of our God. Today all creation shines with light from on high. Today error has been destroyed and the coming of the Master makes for us a way of salvation. Today things on high keep festival with those below, and those below commune with those on high. Today the sacred and triumphant festal assembly of the Orthodox exults. Today the Master hastens towards baptism, that he may lead humanity to the heights. Today the One who does not bow bows down to his own servant, that he may free us from servitude. Today we have purchased the Kingdom of heaven, for the Kingdom of the Lord will have no end. Today earth and sea share the joy of the world, and the world has been filled with gladness. The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and were afraid. The Jordan turned back when it saw the fire of the godhead descending in bodily form and entering it. The Jordan turned back as it contemplated the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending and flying about you. The Jordan turned back as it saw the Invisible made visible, the Creator made flesh, the Master in the form of a servant. The Jordan turned back and the mountains leapt as they saw God in the flesh, and the clouds uttered their voice, marvelling at what had come to pass, seeing Light from Light, true God from true God, the Master’s festival today in Jordan; seeing him drowning the death from disobedience, the goad of error and the bond of Hell in Jordan and granting the Baptism of salvation to the world. Therefore I too, a sinner and your unworthy servant, recount the greatness of your wonders and, seized with fear, in compunction cry out to you…

    Reminds me of St Chrysostom’s Easter Homily.

  4. bls

    You could help out the writer of that site I linked above, who says that s/he does not read Latin and has not found a Latin translation of the Paean anywhere on the web. (And I’ll post the translation, too, of course!)

    I wonder if we can find the answer to this question. What I’d really like to know, of course, is what those Epistle hymns actually sounded like….

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    Oh my…

    Just was glancing over the hymn and the very next verse after the wedding at Cana is:

    Orat salutem servulo
    Nixus genu centurio,
    Credentis ardor plurirnus
    Extinxit ignes febriurn

    Which I read a s a pretty clear reference to Matthew 8:1-13 which was appointed as the Gospel for Epiphany 3 in the old lectionary. Very interesting…

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    If I could just get my hands on this: Springer, “Sedulius’ A Solis Ortus Cardine: The Hymn and Its Tradition, ” Ephemerides Liturgicae 101 (1987), 69-75.

    *sigh* I can’t wait until I can be on-location at an institution with a library…

  7. bls

    That verse has something to do with the Centurion, I take it?

    I’m going to do my own translation (look out!):

    The centurian pleaded for his servant on bended knee
    And believed with his whole heart when the fever was extinguished.

    (Hey, I think that might actually be close!)

    So this hymn may really be about all the miraculous manifestations, then?

    What does “A solis ortus cardine” actually mean? The sun something something….?

  8. bls

    (And this page at bach-cantatas.com notes that another of Sedulius’ works (Carmen paschale, a biblical epic in five books of dactylic hexameter) was the source “for the text of the introit of the Votive Mass of the Virgin, Salve, sancta parens, and the Christmas antiphon Genuit puerpera regem.”

    More than anybody ever wanted to know about Caelius Sedulius! ;-) )

  9. Derek the Ænglican

    Good job! That’s the sense of it. No–not just miraculous manifestations. But that *is* the point of the Epiphany season where this reading fell.

    It goes from there to Peter walking on the water, the the raising of Lazarus, the T through X give us the crucifixion with just Y and Z for the resurrection.

  10. Derek the Ænglican

    Not major difficulties, just the usual squabbling about where exactly to put it in someone’s career and what they may have been influenced by. We know he wrote the hymn, we just don’t know *exactly* when and what was original vs. repackaged.

  11. Derek the Ænglican

    Actually, I’m pretty pumped about finding references to these two works: C.P.E. Springer’s The Gospel as Epic in Late Antiquity (1988 ) and R.P.H. Green’s Latin Epics of the New Testament (2006) as a result of all this…

    Again—my kingdom for a library!

  12. bls

    You history types should have lending libraries amongst yourselves. When somebody needs a book, they should put out a call for it, and offer anything on their shelves to others. That way, you can read what you want to – obscure though it may be! – and not have to buy it for those insane prices.

  13. John-Julian, OJN

    This isn’t history, but – tangentially – the BOAS has a seasonal blessing for Epiphany:

    May Almighty God, who led the Wise Men by the shining of a star to find the Christ, the Light from Light, lead you also in your pilgrimage to find the Lord. Amen.

    May God, who sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon the Only-begotten at his baptism in the Jordan River, pour out that Spirit on you who have come to the waters of new birth. Amen.

    May God, by the power that turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, transform your lives and make glad your hearts. Amen.

    And the blessing of God Almighty, (+) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you for ever. Amen.

  14. bls

    Actually, a few years ago I read in Evelyn Underhill’s Worship about “the three great Christian ‘moments’ – Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost.” I was surprised that Epiphany made this list – and that there is no mention of Christmas there at all.

    I think maybe Epiphany is too subtle and complex or something – not just one moment, but three – or maybe more! Or maybe it’s just that there aren’t any presents or big dinners or Holy Winds blowing through….

  15. Derek the Ænglican

    Well, Epiphany was the first big Incarnation feast and still is in the Eastern churches. While Easter and Pentecost were 1st/2nd century feasts, we don’t see Epiphany or Christmas until the 4th or so. The volume on them in particular is both generated by and oriented toward the Christological controversies with the Arians and Docetists.

  16. bls

    Maybe it’s because Epiphany doesn’t seem unusual anymore. The Magi is just a nice story – rather than the revealing of Christ to the Gentiles.

    Maybe all us Gentiles are just so used to the latter fact that it doesn’t have any impact anymore….

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