According to “Come Let us Adore Him” [Countryman 2005 Robert Morgan] – O Come, O come Emmanuel was pulled together by John Mason Neale, an Anglican minister who had a penchant for translating Latin into English. This great old hymn of the church was actually a compilation of a series of Latin hymns that were sung each day between December 17 and 23 as far back as the 800s.
Ordained an Anglican Priest in 1841– Neale’s health and his Roman Catholic leanings prevented him from ever taking a parish. Instead he was the warden for Sackville College, a home for the elderly. He was brilliant in his work to bring some of the ancient text of the church into the mainstream by translating them into English.
I love this old hymn and each Advent as I hear those first few notes I feel a great sense of renewal. The hymn is synonymous for me with expectation and preparation. My favourite verse?
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Indeed the Child for whom we wait is the very fullness if Light. This Child for whom we wait is capable of dispelling the darkness that surrounds us that we might be embraced by radiance and love. The church needs to hear those words of joy , of light of hope. This child fro whom we ait will bring cheer and joy.
I have heard a rumour that my friend Art Shields loves the hymn “Silent Night” and that is his favourite hymn. (I heard that he would sing if we allowed it in July.) I have to confess that I like that great carol of the church but not so much as the great Veni, Veni Emmanuel. Plus I get to sing this hymn as early as Advent One, whereas unlike Art who has been singing Silent Night since the first of November, I have to wait till Christmas to utter “sleee-ep in Heavenly peace.” I would say that I can’t wait until Christmas Eve so that I can sing Silent Night with Art Shields but the whole point is I can wait. The waiting makes it even sweeter. I do love to see the joy in his face when we sing that hymn and I look forward to it.
And indeed there is I believe a great connection to the verse above. How about this verse ?
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born
I would have to say that we see the journey from Advent to Christmas in these two Verses. In the verse above we see images of dispersing darkness – in this verse from Art’s hymn says “Glories stream from Heaven afar.” I would also suggest that I my hymn there is a plea for “cheering our spirits.” My gosh, it certainly sounds like all darkness is dispelled and all sadness is laid aside in celebratory alleluias in the face of the messiah being delivered.
This is such a great time of year. We have so much to look forward to. I think right now I need to go “slee-ep in heavenly peace!”