Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Refuge and Our Great Reward

For the third Sunday of Advent, many churches heard about John the Baptist in readings from John 1:6-8 and 19-26. John's is a new Advent voice telling of the coming Messiah that the ancient prophets had foretold.

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Christ is nigh;
Awake, and hearken, and rejoice
To hear the desert-prophet's voice!

Then freed be every one from sin;
Prepare the way for God within;
And let each heart prepare a home,
Where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge, and our great reward.
Without thy grace our souls must fade
And wither like a flower decayed.

Stretch forth thy hand, our health restore,
And make us rise to fall no more;
O, let thy face upon us shine,
And fill the world with love divine.

All praise, eternal Christ, to thee,
Whose advent sets thy people free,
Whom with the Maker we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Charles Coffin, 1736; tr. John Chandler, 1837; alt.
Musikalisches Handbuch, 1690;
harm. William H. Monk, 1847

Charles Coffin was French and wrote his hymns in Latin. This one (Jordanis oras praevia) was first published in Hymni Sacri Auctor Carolo Coffin (1736) and shortly thereafter in the Paris Breviary. When John Chandler discovered the Breviary a hundred years later, he believed the Latin hymns to be much older than that and included some of them in a book of his translations called Hymns of the Primitive Church (1837).

The final verse was added by the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861 and has been used to close at least two other Advent hymns. Chandler's translation has undergone many alterations over the years; if you look at five hymnals you may not find more than two or three where the text matches exactly.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

Perhaps because I am (and was raised) Baptist, neither the Catholic text Jordanis oras praevia nor the Anglican tune Winchester New was part of my early inculturation. I first sang this hymn, I'm pretty sure, in Japanese, and to its other frequent tune, Puer Nobis. Winchester New, too, I first learned in a Japanese context, but as the tune of an offertory doxology. I'm not sure I can go along with your revision of the last half of the first verse, somehow "rejoice" seems to me an implausible response to J the B's message. Perhaps Awake, and hearken, and repent, though what to rhyme it with I'm not sure...

Leland aka Haruo

C.W.S. said...

"Rejoice" could be said to tie in with the "glad tidings" in the original last line, but I take your meaning. These changes are admittedly imperfect at times.