Friday, January 6, 2017

Epiphany: We All Win!

On this Feast of Epiphany, we celebrate with the English hymn, "Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning;" 
lyrics by Reginald Herber (1783-1826), music, "Morning Star," by Joseph Harding (1850-1911).

The hymn was first published in 1811 and found its way into the hymnal in 1827, the year after Herber's death. Apparently, the hymn caused some controversy in its opening line, with "sons of the morning" being changed to "stars of the morning" in some hymnals, and still troubling some who thought the hymn was worshiping a star. There is a certain poetic quality in the phrase "sons of the morning" in reference to the stars in the sky -- perhaps an echo of Job 38:7: "When morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy."

The second verse is quite masterful in it's humble setting and mythic expanse:
               Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
               Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
               Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
               Maker and Monarch and Savior of all!

"Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning" was written specifically for the feast of the Epiphany by Herber, and did indeed become one of the most frequently used hymns for this day of the liturgical calendar. And why not? The story proclaims that from the highest star to the lowest estate, we all win!


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