This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of the Father's Love Begotten

This is, to my mind, one of the most profound Christmas hymns, one that gets to the heart of the mystery of the Incarnation. It was based on a poem written in the late fourth or early fifth century, translated, and set to a medieval plainchant entitled Divinum mysterium (the Divine Mystery). The following, taken from Wikipedia, gives the original Latin poem, its translation, and the metrical setting in English of the hymn.

May you have a blessed Christmas, and I hope that this poem may help you more fully comprehend the wonders of the Incarnation which we celebrate today.

Latin text by Prudentius (b. 348).
Translation by Roby Furley Davis, for the English Hymnal (1906).
Translation by J M Neale, extended by Henry W. Baker (1851/1861)
Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quæ sunt, fuerunt,
quæque post futura sunt.
Sæculorum sæculis.
Of the Father's heart begotten,
Ere the world from chaos rose,
He is Alpha, from that Fountain
All that is and hath been flows;
He is Omega, of all things,
Yet to come the distant Close,
Evermore and evermore.
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!
Ipse iussit et creata,
dixit ipse et facta sunt,
Terra, cælum, fossa ponti,
trina rerum machina,
Quæque in his vigent sub alto
solis et lunæ globo.
Sæculorum sæculis.
By His Word was all created
He commanded and 'twas done;
Earth and sky and boundless ocean,
Universe of three in one,
All that sees the moon's soft radiance,
All that breathes beneath the sun,
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!
Corporis formam caduci,
membra morti obnoxia
Induit, ne gens periret
primoplasti ex germine,
Merserat quem lex profundo
noxialis tartaro.
Sæculorum sæculis.
He assumed this mortal body,
Frail and feeble, doomed to die,
That the race from dust created,
Might not perish utterly,
Which the dreadful Law had sentenced
In the depths of hell to lie,
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 beatus ortus ille,
virgo cum puerpera
Edidit nostram salutem,
feta Sancto Spiritu,
Et puer redemptor orbis
os sacratum protulit.
Sæculorum sæculis.
O how blest that wondrous birthday,
When the Maid the curse retrieved,
Brought to birth mankind's salvation
By the Holy Ghost conceived,
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer
In her loving arms received,
Evermore and evermore.
O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!
Psallat altitudo caeli,
psallite omnes angeli,
Quidquid est virtutis usquam
psallat in laudem Dei,
Nulla linguarum silescat,
vox et omnis consonet.
Sæculorum sæculis.
Sing, ye heights of heaven, his praises;
Angels and Archangels, sing!
Wheresoe’er ye be, ye faithful,
Let your joyous anthems ring,
Every tongue his name confessing,
Countless voices answering,
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!
Ecce, quem vates vetustis
concinebant sæculis,
Quem prophetarum fideles
paginæ spoponderant,
Emicat promissus olim;
cuncta conlaudent eum.
Sæculorum sæculis.
This is He, whom seer and sibyl
Sang in ages long gone by,;
This is He of old revealed
In the page of prophecy;
Lo! He comes the promised Saviour;
Let the world his praises cry!
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!
Macte iudex mortuorum,
macte rex viventium,
Dexter in Parentis arce
qui cluis virtutibus,
Omnium venturus inde
iustus ultor criminum.
Sæculorum sæculis.
Hail! Thou Judge of souls departed;
Hail! of all the living King!
On the Father's right hand throned,
Through his courts thy praises ring,
Till at last for all offences
Righteous judgement thou shalt bring,
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!
Te senes et te iuventus,
parvulorum te chorus,
Turba matrum, virginumque,
simplices puellulæ,
Voce concordes pudicis
perstrepant concentibus.
Sæculorum sæculis.
Now let old and young uniting
Chant to thee harmonious lays
Maid and matron hymn Thy glory,
Infant lips their anthem raise,
Boys and girls together singing
With pure heart their song of praise,
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!
Tibi, Christe, sit cum Patre
hagioque Pneumate
Hymnus, decus, laus perennis,
gratiarum actio,
Honor, virtus, victoria,
regnum aeternaliter.
Sæculorum sæculis.
Let the storm and summer sunshine,
Gliding stream and sounding shore,
Sea and forest, frost and zephyr,
Day and night their Lord alone;
Let creation join to laud thee
Through the ages evermore,
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:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ as Emanuel, God with us

O Antiphon for December 24
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Scripture references: Isaiah 7:14



Monday, December 23, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ as King of the Nations

O Antiphon for December 23
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, veni, Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

Scripture references: Isaiah 2:4; 9:6



Sunday, December 22, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ the Morning Star

O Antiphon for December 22
O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine Advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Scripture references: Isaiah 9:2; 60:1-2


Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ as the Key of David

O Antiphon for December 21
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav'nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Scripture references: Isaiah 9:7; 22:22; 42:7


Friday, December 20, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ as the Root of Jesse

O Antiphon for December 20

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depths of Hell thy people save
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

Scripture references: Isaiah 11:1, 10

Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ as the Lord

If you haven't read the first post in this series, please do; it'll help you make sense of the rest.
For those of you who don't know, an antiphon is a response by the choir or the congregation to a Psalm or another passage of Scripture read or sung during a liturgy. The antiphon is often a Gregorian chant.
O Antiphon for December 19
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento. 

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
Scripture references: Isaiah 11:4-5; 33:22

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Come, O Come Emanuel: Christ the Wisdom of God

I talked about my favorite Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emanuel,” in my earlier post “Death at Christmas.” If you haven’t read that, I’d encourage you to do so. This year, I want to take the next week to talk about that hymn and its origins.

“O Come, O Come Emanuel” comes from the “O Antiphons” used in the Latin liturgy probably since the early 500s AD. Each of the Antiphons begins with “O” followed by a title of the Messiah from the Old Testament. One Antiphon was used in the liturgy in the eight days leading up to Christmas, with the final Antiphon said on Christmas Eve.

The titles of the Messiah form an acrostic: if you take the first letter from each of them, and then read them backwards, you get Ero cras, Latin for “I am coming tomorrow.” (We would do them in the opposite order, but for the medieval mind, once you start the word you need to be able to pronounce it straight through, so you need the first letter on the night before Christmas.)

I will be publishing the O Antiphons in order, in Latin and English, with the appropriate verse from “O Come, O Come Emanuel” and the biblical reference, each day leading up to Christmas Eve. For those of you who are Christians and are preparing for the celebration of Christ’s coming, these would work well in your devotions

O Antiphon for December 18
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviter disponens que omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.[6]

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence. 

O Come, O Come Emanuel
Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel

 Scripture references: Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sorghaghtani, the Mother of Great Khans

The next article in Christians who Changed their World is up at the Colson Center. This one features Sorghaghtani Beki, the mother of three Mongol Khans (including Kublai Khan, the Chinese emperor who welcomed Marco Polo). She shaped world history in some pretty powerful ways, but is almost completely unknown in the English speaking world. Don't let the names throw you: she's someone well worth learning about.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jolly Old St. Nicholas: The Man behind the Legend

For the last two years, I have done blog posts on the date of Christmas and the origins ofthe Christmas tree, debunking some popular ideas about each of these. This year, in honor of St. Nicholas Day (December 6), I thought I’d write about who he was historically. How he got transformed into Santa Clause is a story for another day.

Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in Patara (in modern Turkey, then a Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire) somewhere between 260 and 280 AD. His parents died of an epidemic, and so he was raised by an uncle, also named Nicholas, who was bishop of Patara.

 Not much is known for certain about his life. Apparently, his uncle began preparing him to become a priest, but he was elected bishop of Myra prior to his ordination as a priest. This was very unusual—only two other examples are known—which makes the story believable. If the biography were being invented, this kind of embellishment would have been unlikely.

Under the Great Persecution begun by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Nicholas was thrown into prison with many other members of the clergy. When Christianity was decriminalized, he was released and returned to Myra.

Nicholas was known for his charity. For example, one story tells of him giving gold anonymously to three sisters from a poor family to provide dowries for them so they wouldn’t be forced into a life of prostitution. Although this story exists in a variety of forms, it too is likely to be based on an actual event. Other saints’ lives do not contain similar stories, so it is unlikely to have been made up here. This incident is the origin of the idea that St. Nicholas comes to give gifts to children at Christmas.

Another story tells of rioting that broke out in Myra’s port city of Andriaki. Nicholas hurried there to see if he could help, and was told that three innocent men had been taken by the authorities and were about to be executed. Nicholas ran to the place of execution and grabbed the executioner’s sword just as he was about to behead the first of the men. Nicholas threw the sword down, and the three men went free while Nicholas worked to clear them of the charges.

A number of miracles were attributed to Nicholas both in life and after death, so many in fact that Nicholas has been titled “Thaumaturge” (the Miracle Worker). I’m not going to go into these except to mention Nicholas’s “manna,” a clear liquid that began appearing in his tomb and according to my sources continues to do so. It is believed to have healing properties.

But all of this fades before my favorite story of St. Nicholas, which involves the Council of Nicaea. The Council was called by the recently converted emperor Constantine to settle a theological conflict in the church. The issue was how we understand Jesus. Everyone recognized that he was a man, but the question was, what else is he? The theologian Athanasius argued that he is fully God; Arius argued that he isn’t God but the firstborn and highest of the angels. This conflict threatened to split the church, so Constantine invited bishops from around the Empire to meet in Nicaea and settle the matter. More than 300 bishops attended, including Nicholas.

At the Council, Nicholas sided very firmly with Athanasius, insisting on the deity of Christ. After one of Arius’s speeches, Nicholas was so upset that he walked across the room and gave him a hard slap across the face.

That’s right. Jolly Old St. Nicholas punched out Arius.

The bishops were shocked by Nicholas’s behavior, and he was mortified himself by his loss of self-control. Since it was illegal to strike another person in the presence of the Emperor, he was stripped of his episcopal robes and thrown in prison. Stories vary about his release, but once he had done his penance, he was allowed to return to Myra.

So there you have some tidbits about the life of St. Nicholas. The main conclusion I would draw from it is that heresy puts you on his naughty list, and if you’re on it he’s very likely to give you something more than a lump of coal.