78

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This hymn, with very ancient roots, is a confession of faith about the Christ, the eternal Son of God, whose birth and saving ministry were the fulfillment of ancient prophecies (st. 1-3). The final stanzas are a doxology inspired by John's visions recorded in Revelation 4-7 (st. 4-5). The text is based on "Corde natus ex parentis," a Latin poem by Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (b. Saragossa [?], Northern Spain, 348; d. c. 413).
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s “fierce love” referred to in Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 5 is the power behind the scenes in this song.
 
In stanza 2, this song, like Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 35, explains the conceiving of Christ by the Holy Spirit: the eternal Son of God took a truly human nature to himself “through the working of the Holy Spirit from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary.”
 
This hymn concludes with a doxology of praise for all three members of the Trinity who were involved in the incarnation. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12, Question and Answer 31 captures the role of each when it professes that Christ is called anointed, because he has been “ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit” to be our prophet, priest, and king.
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Of the Father's Love Begotten

Words of Praise

Come and stand amazed, you people,
see how God is reconciled!
See his plans of love accomplished,
see his gift, this newborn child.
See the Mighty, weak and tender,
see the Word who now is mute.
See the Sovereign without splendor,
see the Fullness destitute;
the Beloved, whom we covet,
in a state of low repute.
See how humankind received him;
see him wrapped in swaddling bands,
who as Lord of all creation
rules the wind by his commands.
See him lying in a manger
without sign of reasoning;
Word of God to flesh surrendered,
he is wisdom’s crown, our King.
See how tender our Defender
at whose birth the angels sing.
O Lord Jesus, God incarnate,
who assumed this humble form,
counsel me and let my wishes
to your perfect will conform.
Light of life, dispel my darkness,
let your frailty strengthen me;
let your meekness give me boldness,
let your burden set me free;
let your sadness give me gladness,
let your death be life for me. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
—Matthew 1:21, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

When the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
in order to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as children.
—Galatians 4:4-5, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

When the goodness and loving kindness
of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness
that we had done, but according to his mercy,
through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that, having been justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
—Titus 3:4-7, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

In the past God spoke to our ancestors
through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
and through whom also he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.
After he had provided purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
—Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God of God, Light of light,
very God of very God;
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father,
by whom all things were made.
Who, for us and our salvation,
came down from heaven,
and became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary,
and was made man.
—from Nicene Creed
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

We believe that Jesus Christ,
according to his divine nature,
is the only Son of God—
eternally begotten,
not made or created,
for then he would be a creature.
He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal;
the exact image of the person of the Father
and the “reflection of God’s glory,”
being like the Father in all things.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God
not only from the time he assumed our nature
but from all eternity,
as the following testimonies teach us
when they are taken together.
Moses says that God created the world;
and John says that all things were created through the Word,
which he calls God.
The apostle says that God created the world through the Son.
He also says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.
And so it must follow
that the one who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ
already existed before creating all things.
Therefore the prophet Micah says
that Christ’s origin is “from ancient days.”
And the apostle says that the Son has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”
So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty,
whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
—Belgic Confession, Art. 10
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Emmanuel, God with us,
you are our heart’s delight.
Because of your amazing love,
you came to earth,
you became one of us,
you reached out to us while we were lost,
you rescued us from death,
you brought us salvation.
Your love is so high and wide and deep
that it, and only it, could reach this suffering world.
You came to bring an end to our sadness,
to dry our tears, to still our fears, to give us hope.
In deep gratitude we praise you.
We worship you for dwelling among us. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
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Of the Father's Love Begotten

Tune Information

Name
DIVINUM MYSTERIUM
Key
E♭ Major

Recordings

Musical Suggestion

Like any chant, this should be led with a strong sense of horizontal melodic line rather than vertical harmony. Consider having the choir sing the first verse a cappella and in unison to model the chant for the congregation. Another creative variation would be sing the fifth verse as a Gloria Patri at the end of the service, repeating the phrase “evermore and evermore.”
— Greg Scheer
78

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Hymn Story/Background

This hymn, with very ancient roots, is a confession of faith about the Christ, the eternal Son of God, whose birth and saving ministry were the fulfillment of ancient prophecies (sts. 1-3). The final stanzas are a doxology inspired by John's visions recorded in Revelation 4-7 (sts. 4-5). The text is based on "Corde natus ex parentis," a Latin poem by Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius.
 
DIVINUM MYSTERIUM is a plainsong, or chant, associated with the “Divinum mysterium” text in manuscripts dating from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. The tune was published in triple meter in Theodoricis Petri's Piae Cantiones (1582). Some hymnals retain the dance-like triple meter, while others keep the original unmeasured form of the chant.
 
A famous example of his many poetic writings, Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius’ text is a confession of faith about Christ, whose birth and saving ministry were the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Two doxological stanzas complete this great Christmas hymn, commonly sung to a chant melody that appears in modern hymnals in either a dance-like triple meter or, as here, in unmeasured form that should follow speech rhythms.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (b. Saragossa [?], Northern Spain, 348; d. c. 413) was the greatest Christian poet of his time. We know little of his life—only what he tells us in his own writings. He received a fine education, served as a judge and "twice ruled noble cities." He also tells of an appointment at the imperial court in Rome. But at the age of fifty-seven Prudentius bade farewell to this successful, prosperous life and vowed to spend the rest of his days in poverty. He served the church by meditating and writing, presumably at an unnamed monastery. All of his writings are in poetic form, including learned discussions in theology and apologetics. Most of the English hymns derived from his works, including "Of the Father's Love Begotten," were taken from his Liber Cathemerinon (c. 405), which consists of twelve extended poems meant for personal devotions, six for use throughout the hours of the day and six for special feasts.
 
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Paul G. Bunjes (b. September 27, 1914; d. June 27, 1998) was an organist, author, and organ designer. He wrote The Praetorius Organ (four volumes), numerous articles for periodicals, and was an accomplished composer and arranger. He was a major contributor to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982). Bunjes was Professor of Music at Concordia University for many years.
— Laura de Jong

Song Notes

In the early fourth century, one of the greatest controversies in the church came to a breaking point, and the Emperor Constantine called together the First Council of Nicea to establish once and for all the Church’s official stance on the nature of the Trinity. The council condemned the teaching of Arius, who believed that Jesus was not of the same nature as God the Father. The Nicene Creed was thus written as a statement of faith that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all of the same nature, three and yet one. Prudentius’ hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” addresses this belief in the Trinity in the very first line. It is very clear from his text that Christ is both human and divine, and rather than simply being made by God, he was “begotten” of the very same substance. As we sing this hymn, 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, so often associated with Christmas, is thus a hymn of proclamation, calling us to sing out our faith—“every voice in concert ring, evermore and evermore!”
 
— Laura de Jong
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