All posts by Daniel Hautamaki

About Daniel Hautamaki

Husband of the best wife and dad of the coolest kids in Tallahassee, FL. Weapon of choice: guitar with a banjo backup. Hymns keep me sane, the Spirit keeps me persevering. Soli Deo Gloria.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

This carol, one of my favorites, was written as a poem during the American Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow after his son was injured fighting for the Union army. Interestingly, two verses are usually left out of our modern singings that refer explicitly to the North/South conflict (included below). Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day. As Hate did its best to silence the chiming bells with cannon fire and the splitting of a Nation on both sides, they burst forth with peals of hope proclaiming that God is alive and with us, and they echo through time to us now, reminding us once again this Advent that, at the Last Day, “the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on Earth, goodwill to Men.”

Pedro the Lion’s version, singing the John Calkin tune, is good stuff:

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – Pedro The Lion from Nolan Gray on Vimeo.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Of The Father’s Love Begotten

The Birth of Jesus, Pietro Cavallini, 1291
Tonight we go WAY back, to one of the earliest recorded Christian poems on record. Aurelius Clemens Prudentius was a Roman Christian who lived from 348-413 AD in/around what is now present-day Spain. He was the first Christian poet we know of, and wrote many poems defending the faith from heresies and encouraging the Church to persevere. The hymn Of The Father’s Love Begotten is based on Prudentius’ Hymn For All Hours, hymn IX in his collection Liber Cathemerinon, “Hymns for the Christian’s Day.”

The full collection of Prudentius hymns and a short biography can be found here, thanks to Project Gutenberg. It’s definitely worth a read, especially hymn IX above and hymn XI, “Hymn For Christmas Day.” Below is Of The Father’s Love Begotten, based on a translation of hymn IX from the Latin by John Neale and Henry Baker in the late 1800’s (tune here). May these ancient words encourage you this Advent as they have the Church for nearly two thousand years.

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!

At His Word the worlds 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!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever 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 sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, 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 with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Edit: Kevin DeYoung gives a fuller treatment here.