An 8th c. Advent Hymn (Creator of the Stars of Night)

One of the bloggers I follow, Trevin Wax, posted a portion of an ancient Advent hymn on Sunday:

Come, Sun and Savior, to Embrace

2013112701advent_300Come, Sun and Savior, to embrace
Our gloomy world, its weary race,
As groom to bride, as bride to groom:
The wedding chamber, Mary’s womb.

At Your great Name, O Jesus, now
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heaven, shall call You Lord.

Come in Your holy might, we pray,
Redeem us for eternal day;
Defend us while we dwell below,
From all assaults of our dread foe.

– 8th century hymn

Many of our readers may recognize this as the final three stanzas of the lovely and wonderful Advent hymn Creator of the Stars of Night.

There is a great devotional reflection about this hymn here. (It’s a Google books page view, from An Advent Sourcebook, by Thomas O’Gorman, so I can’t copy an excerpt here, but it is really worth reading!)  You can also read the full lyrics, which differ slightly from the version of the hymn typically sung in modern churches.

Here is a nice chanted version of the hymn in Latin & English, performed by the Christendom College Choir & Schola Gregoriana:

Here’s a contemporary rendition from the album High Street Hymns:

***

Update:  I found a copy of the devotional reflection on this hymn which I cited above:

“FOR many, Advent would not be Advent if introduced by any other hymn. It is well-nigh impossible for even the best of poets to find a formula that really corresponds to the first line of the Latin text. The Latin “sidus” [“siderum”] means more than “star.” It includes the stars, of course, but also sun and moon and planets and all the heavenly constel¬lations and comets and meteors. These are the cosmic elements that will appear in later stanzas of the hymn. For the ancients, these mysterious heavenly bodies that moved about and that had their cycles of waxing and waning and that in some unfathomable way could affect the course of human destiny-these heavenly bodies were perhaps living beings.

“The opening line of this Advent hymn should make us think of the great array of all the powerful cosmic bodies that figure in those eschatological texts of scripture where the whole of the created universe responds to the presence of its God. The point of reference is not some lovely nightfall scene studded with gently glimmering stars, but rather that Great Day when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). Indeed, this Advent hymn, if we really look at it, is something of a “Dies irae” in a less strident mode.

“In stanza three, the world’s evening draws to a close. We recognize in the last three lines of this stanza the allusion to verse six of Psalm 19, the verse that occurs so frequently in the Christmastide cycle: “And he, as a bridegroom coming forth from the bridal chamber, rejoices as a giant to run his course.” So just when the world seems doomed to certain extinction, the Sun comes forth in a blaze of light and begins its paschal journey across the whole of human life and experience. This imagery is especially appropriate towards the beginning of December and the first Sunday of Advent, when nights are growing progressively longer and longer, until, upon the arrival of the winter solstice just before Christmas, the inexorable onslaught of darkness is reversed with the birth of Christ, the Sun of Justice, who now begins to run his course over the whole of our existence.”

–Chrysogonous Waddell

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One Response to An 8th c. Advent Hymn (Creator of the Stars of Night)

  1. […] An 8th c. Advent Hymn (Creator of the Stars of Night) […]

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