An Epiphany Hymn

From Prudentius’s Cathemerinon XII

The following hymn is used for Lauds, or Morning Prayer, on the Feast of the Epiphany. The hymn consists of six stanzas (1, 2, 7, 9, 10, and 11) of a longer hymn by the poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (born A.D. 348). The final stanza is a traditional closing doxology, not written by Prudentius. I have quoted both the Latin text and translation from R. Martin Pope’s The Hymns of Prudentius, where you can read the entire hymn, and all the rest in the collection, carefully annotated by Pope.

Quicumque Christum quaeritis,
oculos in altum tollite,
illic licebit visere
signum perennis gloriae.

Haec stella, quae solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.

En Persici ex orbis sinu,
sol unde sumit ianuam,
cernunt periti interpretes
regale vexillum Magi.

Quis iste tantus, inquiunt,
regnator astris inperans,
quem sic tremunt caelestia,
cui lux et aethra inserviunt.

Inlustre quiddam cernimus,
quod nesciat finem pati,
sublime, celsum, interminum,
antiquius caelo et chao.

Hic ille rex est gentium
populique rex Iudaici,
promissus Abrahae patri
eiusque in aevum semini.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui te revelas gentibus,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Lift up your eyes, whoe’er ye be
That fare the new-born Christ to see:
For yonder is the shining sign
Of grace perennial and divine.

What means this star, whose piercing rays
Outshine the sun’s resplendent blaze?
‘Tis token sure that God is come
In mortal flesh to make His home.

Lo! from the regions of the morn
Wherein the radiant sun is born,
The Persian sages see on high
God’s ensign shining in the sky.

Who is this sovereign (they enquire)
That lords it o’er the ethereal choir?
‘Fore whom the heavens bow down afraid,
Of all the worlds of light obeyed?

Sure ’tis the sign most reverend
Of Being that doth know no end:
Of One in state sublime arrayed
Ere sky and chaos yet were made.

This is the King of Israel,
Of all in Gentile lands that dwell:
The King to Abram and his seed
Throughout all ages erst decreed.

O Jesus, glory be to thee,
This day revealed that all may see,
With the Father and the Spirit Gracious
Unto the everlasting ages. Amen.

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