Part of our Lenten observance includes attending Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of the Atonement each Friday. Before Stations, Father Phillips celebrates Solemn Evensong (and after Stations we have Benediction – they definitely take Lent seriously at Atonement!), which is a a distinctive part of the Anglican Patrimony. One of the most beautiful parts of evensong is at the beginning, when we chant the Phos Hilaron. Nothing lifts up your heart and should like praising God with beautiful language!
The Phos Hilaron is the oldest known non-scriptural Christian hymn, to be sung in evening at the lighting of the lamps. It has been attributed to St. Athenogenes, who is said to have sung it on the way to his martyrdom under Diocletian. You can read a little more about it here.
This hymn is used in many Christian traditions, most especially the eastern rites and churches, but also among Anglicans and Lutherans. Being such an ancient hymn, and so widely used, there are many different translations, but here is the one we use:
O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.
There are many different settings and chants for Phos Hilaron, but here’s one we wanted to share with you.