“A Perfect Hymn”

“A Perfect Hymn” February 15, 2023

Church musician Jonathan Aigner, at my fellow Patheos blog Ponder Anew, has been running a series of posts called “Hymn of the Day,” focusing on various classic hymns.

I was struck with what he said about Of the Father’s Love Begotten.  It’s on page 384 of the Lutheran Service Book.  The lyrics are here.  They go way back to the early church, to Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-413 A.D.).  The text was translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), the high church Anglican priest who translated many ancient and medieval hymns, including “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” and “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.”

Aigner says of the hymn,

If there ever were a perfect hymn besides those found in Holy Scripture, I think it would be this one. If you learn all the stanzas, you will have learned the most important elements of Christian theology. Looking ahead to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord tomorrow, which draws the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle to a close, I couldn’t help thinking of what it would have been like for Simeon to finally see Jesus, and the line from stanza 2 came immediately to mind: “And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer / first revealed his sacred face.”


I appreciate that to let his readers hear the hymn he links to a Higher Things youth gathering.  (That’s a confessional Lutheran youth organization.)  I said this in my comment to his post:

Thanks for this! I would just emphasize that the Youtube version you link to is being sung not by a trained choir but by hundreds of teenagers, pouring themselves and their faith into this wondrous hymn. Most youth conferences limit themselves to “praise songs,” but not Higher Things. This shows that young people, like everybody else, can deeply respond to good church music.

  • What makes for “a perfect hymn”?

    I would say that a perfect hymn would be characterized by doctrinal truth and devotional richness expressed in moving poetry and beautiful music.

    What are some other perfect hymns?


    Photo:  John Mason Neale by Unknown author – 1910 book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=128280130

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