Today we will study “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”, hymn #108 in the Glory to God hymnal. This is another hymn that I absolutely LOVE musically. I first sang this my first semester of seminary. It has a beautiful melody that reminds me of early church chants.
This hymn was written in the fifth century by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. (And that’s why it sounds like early church chant). It was translated into English from Latin twice. The first time was in 1854 by John M. Neale, and the second time was in 1859 by Henry Williams Baker. The tune was harmonized by C. Winfred Douglas in 1940. The most recent copyright is of the melody by Church Pension Fund in 1985.
Some of the lyrics are as follows:
1 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!
3 O, that birth forever blessed
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore!
5 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 ring,
evermore and evermore!
I like this song because it also mentions Mary. If this were Instagram, I would insert the hand clap emoji between each syllable, saying, “Stop! Ignoring! Mary!” (Okay, I’m done now.) I will get to this more in my discussion of Stanza 2, but I feel like because of the high status she is afforded in Catholicism as an intercessor and essentially as the mother of God, Protestants shy away to the extreme, with which I completely disagree. I believe we Protestants can reintegrate Mary into our religious faith and practices without putting her on the exact same level as Jesus or the Father. More to come later.
- “Of the Father’s love begotten.”
“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that everyone who believed in Him (the Son) would not perish, but would have everlasting life.” –John 3:16.
“God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” –Nicene Creed
I discussed the metaphysical nature of the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father in Day 2’s post on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, so I won’t expand upon it here. However, I do want to highlight the relationship between scripture and these lyrics.
In the Old Testament, most translations use the term “beget” to mean to father or produce. For instance, in Genesis, Abraham “begat” Isaac. Isaac is the descendant or progeny of Abraham. God “begat” Jesus. Jesus is what I would term (for the purpose of simplicity) the “biological” son of God. And God begat Jesus because of God’s love for the world. In the Old Testament, whenever people or societies sinned, God would destroy them in wrath. Or, God would threaten destruction in order to get His people to repent. Not so in the New Testament. Jesus is a sign of grace. He was one sacrifice for all sin for all time. However, in order for this to come about, God had to ensure that Jesus was born into the world and experienced humanity so that Jesus could bear and redeem the sins of humanity. Jesus was not created or built or molded with clay or wood like an idol. Instead, he was born the same way we were born. And it was all because of the Father’s love for us. That instead of perishing on account of our sins, we would have faith in this beautiful exchange and be saved.
2. “When the Virgin, full of grace, by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race.”
I also discussed Mary in my post about the Magnificat, AKA “Canticle of the Turning.” So here I’ll focus on Jesus as Savior.
Words like Savior or Deliverer are not foreign to the original culture out of which Jesus came. As the descendant of Israelites (in the New Testament also called Jews, like today), Jesus was immersed in Hebraic/Semitic culture. His name, Jesus, is simply a translation of Yeshua, the Hebrew word for Salvation/To Save. Because He would be a savior, God commanded that his name be called Jesus. Another biblical character with a similar name is Joshua or Yehoshua, meaning “The LORD is salvation.” (Strong’s Concordance, entry #3091). Note that it was Joshua who ultimately led the Israelites into Canaan after Moses’ death.
Also note the concept of Grace, this time explicitly mentioned.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”–Ephesians 2:8.
God’s grace has nothing to do with our works. By God’s grace towards us, Jesus died for all. God knew that people would mock Jesus and have Him beaten and killed. Jesus knew the fate that awaited Him, but He went anyway. It was hard, and He wept and prayed and travailed, but He did it for us. He did for the sinners and the righteous. For descendants of Israelites/Jews and descendants of Gentiles. For the privileged and for the poor. For those who believe and those who do not.
I do believe, however, that we honor this sacrifice when we are led by the Holy Spirit to have faith in this great work.
3. “O ye heights of heaven, adore him. Angel hosts, his praises sing. Powers, dominions, bow before him, and extol our God and King.”
Jesus the Messiah is both God and King. He was born to usher in a more perfect kingdom. A more perfect world. His rule is pure and just. This stanza here is a prophecy. Although Jesus’s praises are currently being sung in the heavenly realms, and it is a spiritual reality that all powers and dominions and principalities (spiritual entities that have some form of ruling power) are subject to Jesus, this will yet be fulfilled when He comes back to defeat all of the evil powers that hold influence over our society.
This stanza is one of victory. We are encouraged to sing with the angels, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” in anticipatory of faith of Jesus’s return and triumph over evil. All nations and tongues on earth will join together and sing that Jesus is Lord and King.
Please enjoy this image of a lion. It reminds me of the fierce, yet loving King Aslan, C.S. Lewis’s adaptation of the character of Jesus, from The Chronicles of Narnia (which I still haven’t seen–or read).