Friday, January 14, 2011

O Light That Knew No Dawn

This year I am highlighting great hymns of the church both past and present. Music has always been a part of the church whether it was in the form of chanting the Psalms or in the grand choirs and organs up to the various instruments used today. God speaks to us through music as well as through the scriptures. I've been asked why I'm doing this. It's because in the great hymns you find the source of all love. God is many things. God is Love. God is Light. God is Just. God is Savior. I don't worship his justness, his light, or even his love. I worship God who is love. I worship God who is light. I worship God who is just. I worship God who is mercy. One of the beauties of these hymns is that we encounter the God who is.... If you want love and to love, the source of that love is God. When you seek first God and his kingdom, he then gives of himself in love. And as James reminds us in his epistle, the result is we love. God comes first. The expression of love in us towards others is the result of our union with him.

As St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila so aptly remind us. All good things come from him who is love and light. The flame we see coming from a log in the fireplace is not the fire. The fire in the log is what produces the flame. And so, as we are filled with Him, we then, in obedience, touch others as he has touched us.

This hymn today speaks not of the love of God but the Light of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus illumines our hearts so that we might know him and in the process we know God. Meditate on this ancient hymn by one of the earliest of writers, Gregory of Nazianzus. It is translated from the Greek and probably was sung in chant form in the early church. Today several tunes can be sung to it. Try singing it to the tune of Rejoice The Lord Is King. The hymn is a statement of profound faith and was part of Gregory's long battles with Arianism, Nestorianism and many other heresies of those times which threatened to destroy the church. Dwell on the meaning of the words. And meet God.

“God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

O Light That Knew No Dawn by Gregory of Nazianzus (325-390)

O Light that knew no dawn,
That shines to endless day,
All things in earth and Heav’n
Are lustered by Thy ray;
No eye can to Thy throne ascend,
Nor mind Thy brightness comprehend.

Thy grace, O Father, give,
That I might serve in fear;
Above all boons, I pray,
Grant me Thy voice to hear;
From sin Thy child in mercy free,
And let me dwell in light with Thee.

That, cleansed from stain of sin,
I may meet homage give;
And pure in heart, behold
Thy beauty while I live;
Clean hands in holy worship raise,
And Thee, O Christ my Savior, praise.

In supplication meek
To Thee I bend the knee;
O Christ, when Thou shalt come,
In love remember me,
And in Thy kingdom, by Thy grace,
Grant me a humble servant’s place.

Thy grace, O Father, give,
I humbly Thee implore;
And let Thy mercy bless
Thy servant more and more.
All grace and glory be to Thee,
From age to age eternally.

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