Year C – 2nd Sunday After the Epiphany – Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Summary–This week’s hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” was written during a time of great controversy in the history of the Christian Church.  In the 4th century, uproar ensued over the nature of Jesus.  Arius, a priest from Alexandria, argued that Jesus was not co-eternal with the father.  In other words,  since Jesus was begotten from the Father, he must have had a beginning.  God can’t have a beginning; therefore, Jesus is not God.  The debate raged across Christendom and grew so heated that the Emperor Constantine himself had to call a council of Church elders together in order to establish once and for all the Church’s official stance on the nature of the Trinity.   The council, held in Nicea, condemned Arius’s teaching, and later summazied Christian orthodoxy in the great Nicene Creed.

Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (348-410) respected judge who later became a monastic poet, wrote a series of poetic letters on his understanding of  the Trinity around the time of the Nicean Council.  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” was translated and formed into a chant and later a metrical hymn from Prudentius’s writings. From the very first line, we sing that Christ is both human and divine, and rather than simply being made by God, he was “begotten” of the very same substance. With each stanza, we both affirm and align our faith with the broader faith of the Church, and we deny any belief that says that Christ is not fully divine. This hymn is thus a hymn of proclamation, calling us to sing out our faith – “every voice in concert ring, evermore and evermore!”

Insight–In a debate, words matter.  But what about individual letters?  The Arian controversy centered on a single little greek letter, the iota.  By removing this letter to the word, “homousious”, the council of Nicea made their point that Christ was not created from a similar substance from God the Father.  No, Christ is eternally begotten, not made and is of the SAME substance with the Father.  Take that letter out of the word and Christ is only a man like you and me.  Keep it in and He is God.  What an impact that a single letter can have.  It was so important that men died fighting to keep that letter in the word.  At one point, the Church leader Athanasius felt that the whole world was against him and his view of that one letter, but he fought on.  Blessed are we to have such leaders fight for that one letter.  Blessed are we to be able to sing with the Church that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, begotten of the Father and the source of all Creation.  Individual letters do matter.  The doctrine of the Trinity stands or falls on it.

1 Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He the 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!

2 Oh that ever-blessèd birthday,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And that Child, the world’s Redeemer,
First displayed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

3 Praise Him, O ye heaven of heavens!
Praise Him, angels in the height!
Every power and every virtue
Sing the praise of God aright:
Let no tongue of man be silent,
Let each heart and voice unite,
Evermore and evermore!

4 Thee let age, and Thee let manhood,
Thee let choirs of infants sing;
Thee the matrons and the virgins,
And the children answering;
Let their guileless song re-echo,
And their heart its praises bring,
Evermore and evermore!

5 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!

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

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