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O Gladsome Light, O Grace

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The spirit of this song can come only from those who thankfully receive each day as a gift from God’s hand. Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 44 teaches, “Life is a gift from God’s hand” which we receive thankfully “with reverence for the Creator...” (paragraph 44).
 

The call for God’s help in our daily living arises from those who are confident of his fatherly care; consider reading Belgic Confession, Article 13 and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26.

Assurance

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Tune Information

Name
NUNC DIMITTIS
Key
F Major or modal
Meter
6.6.7.6.6.7

Musical Suggestion

If you would like your choir to introduce “O Gladsome Light,” try an arrangement that would provide a lower and therefore softer mood for this candle-lighting song: sopranos on the alto part; altos on the tenor part (the altos will love it, and the tenors will thank you!); tenors or a tenor soloist on the melody (where it was originally composed); and basses on bass.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 53)
— Emily Brink

Hymn Story/Background

This is an example of the “lamp-lighting” hymns sung by the early Christians, who inherited this practice from the lighting of lamps in Jewish homes at the beginning of each Sabbath. It is an evening hymn, filled with imagery of light and the Trinity, suitably supported by a tune that early Calvinists used to sing to the Song of Simeon.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

The Phos Hilaron is an ancient hymn written in New Testament Greek. It’s Latin title is Lumen Hilare, and is known in English as “Hail Gladdening Light” or “O Gladsome/Joyous Light.” It is the earlist known Christian hymn outside the Bible that is still in use today. It was first recorded by an unknown author in Apostolic Constitutions, written in the late 3rd or 4th century A.D. It was a prayer to be sung in the morning, before meals, in the evening, and at candle lights. It is today part of the Vespers in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is also included in some modern Anglican and Lutheran liturgies. 
— Laura de Jong

Robert Seymour Bridges (b. Walmar, United Kingdom, October 23, 1844; d. Boars Hill, United Kingdom, April 21, 1930) was an English poet noted for his technical mastery of prosody and for his sponsorship of the poetry of his friend Gerard Manley Hopkins. Born into a prosperous family, Bridges went to Eton College and then to Oxford, where he met Hopkins. His edition of Hopkins' poetry that appeared in 1916 rescued it from obscurity. From 1869 until 1882 Bridges worked as a medical student and physician in London hospitals. In 1884 he married Mary Monica Waterhouse, and he spent the rest of his life in virtually unbroken domestic seclusion, first at Yattendon, Berkshire, then at Boar's Hill, devoting himself almost religiously to poetry, contemplation, and the study of prosody. Although he published several long poems and poetic dramas, his reputation rests upon the lyrics collected in Shorter Poems (1890, 1894). New Verse (1925) contains experiments using a meter based on syllables rather than accents. He used this form for his long philosophical poem The Testament of Beauty, published on his 85th birthday. Bridges was poet laureate from 1913 until his death in 1930.

Composer Information

Louis Bourgeois (b. Paris, France, c. 1510; d. Paris, 1561), in both his early and later years, wrote French songs to entertain the rich, but in the history of church music he is known especially for his contribution to the Genevan Psalter. Apparently moving to Geneva in 1541, the same year John Calvin returned to Geneva from Strasbourg, Bourgeois served as cantor and master of the choristers at both St. Pierre and St. Gervais, which is to say he was music director there under the pastoral leadership of Calvin. Bourgeois used the choristers to teach the new psalm tunes to the congregation.
 
The extent of Bourgeois's involvement in the Genevan Psalter is a matter of scholar­ly debate. Calvin had published several partial psalters, including one in Strasbourg in 1539 and another in Geneva in 1542, with melodies by unknown composers. In 1551 another French psalter appeared in Geneva, Eighty-three Psalms of David, with texts by Marot and de Beze, and with most of the melodies by Bourgeois, who supplied thirty-four original tunes and thirty-six revisions of older tunes. This edition was republished repeatedly, and later Bourgeois's tunes were incorporated into the complete Genevan Psalter (1562). However, his revision of some older tunes was not uniformly appreciat­ed by those who were familiar with the original versions; he was actually imprisoned overnight for some of his musical arrangements but freed after Calvin's intervention. In addition to his contribution to the 1551 Psalter, Bourgeois produced a four-part harmonization of fifty psalms, published in Lyons (1547, enlarged 1554), and wrote a textbook on singing and sight-reading, La Droit Chemin de Musique (1550). He left Geneva in 1552 and lived in Lyons and Paris for the remainder of his life.
— Bert Polman

The music of Claude Goudimel (b. Besançon, France, c. 1505; d. Lyons, France, 1572) was first published in Paris, and by 1551 he was composing harmonizations for some Genevan psalm tunes—initially for use by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. He became a Calvinist in 1557 while living in the Huguenot community in Metz. When the complete Genevan Psalter with its unison melodies was published in 1562, Goudimel began to compose various polyphonic settings of all the Genevan tunes. He actually composed three complete harmonizations of the Genevan Psalter, usually with the tune in the tenor part: simple hymn-style settings (1564); slightly more complicated harmonizations (1565); and quite elaborate, motet-like settings (1565-1566). The various Goudimel settings became popular throughout Calvinist Europe, both for domestic singing and later for use as organ harmonizations in church. Goudimel was one of the victims of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots, which oc­curred throughout France.
— Bert Polman