Phos Hilaron (Ancient Greek: Φῶς Ἱλαρόν, Fόs Ilarόn) is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in Koine Greek. Often referred to by its Latin title Lumen Hilare, it has been translated into English as O Gladsome Light. It is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible that is still in use today. The hymn is part of vespers in the Byzantine Rite, and also included in some modern Anglican and Lutheran liturgies.
The hymn is first recorded by an unknown author in the Apostolic Constitutions, which was written in the late 3rd or early 4th century AD. It is found in a collection of songs to be sung in the morning, in the evening, before meals, and at candle lighting. Phos Hilaron is to be sung at the lighting of lamps in the evening and so is sometimes known as the 'Lamp-lighting Hymn'. Despite some of the words to the other three songs being from Scripture or in one case dated to around 150 A.D., Phos Hilaron is the first to be considered an actual hymn in the modern sense. It is certainly the first complete example. It is far more rhythmic than the others and is divided into twelve verses varying between five, six, eight, nine, ten and eleven syllables a verse. St. Basil the Great (329-379 AD) spoke of the singing of the Phos Hilaron as a cherished tradition of the church, the hymn being already considered old in his day (though some attribute the composition of the song to St Basil himself). The original melody, as used by the Greek Orthodox Church on the original text, is considered taxing on the voice as it spans almost two octaves, with the voice peaking on the words "Heavenly" and "the Father" (see word painting).
At that time in Jerusalem a lamp was kept perpetually burning in the empty tomb of Christ, its glow a symbol of the living light of Jesus. As Christians gathered to worship the hymn was sung and, in a tradition known as the lighting of the lamps, a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright, solitary flame calling the church to celebrate the Risen Lord.
Saint Athenogenes, a saint of unknown date but whose saint's day is 16 July, is believed by some to have composed this hymn on the way to being martyred. He is often depicted as an elderly bishop with the executioner's arm paralyzed until the saint has completed his song. The Roman Martyrology states: "In Pontus, the birthday of Saint Athenogenes, [is celebrated. He was] an aged theologian, who, when about to consummate his martyrdom by fire, sang a hymn of joy, which he left in writing to his disciples." He is probably identical to the bishop who martyred with ten disciples in Sebaste, Armenia, on July 16 during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, most probably ca. 305 AD.
St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (560-638), who was known for his poetry, is believed to have revised the hymn and Orthodox liturgical books often identify him as the author, e.g., in the Slavonic text below.
The hymn is a fixed part of the Orthodox vespers service, sung or recited daily, at the entrance when great vespers is celebrated and, in all cases, after the "lamp lighting psalms", aka, "Lord, I have cried..." and their stichera and immediately preceding the prokeimenon.
In Vespers of the Armenian Liturgy
An Armenian text of this hymn is sung at vespers (Armenian: erekoyin zham) but only for Sundays on Saturday evenings and at vespers on the eve of certain feast days. The name of the text in Armenian is Loys Zvart'. Its melody is melismatic, and is typically sung as a solo by a member of the choir. This hymn introduces a short sequence for Sunday vespers sung on Saturday evening. This sequence occurs after the standard introduction to all vespers services in the Armenian liturgy. Following this sequence is the meghedi hymn for Sundays, which contains the main theme of the day, which for Sundays is that of the resurrection of Christ; this meghedi is roughly equivalent in function to the apolytikion of Byzantine vespers.
The hymn was translated into English meter by John Keble, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism, in 1834. Keble's version was set for eight voices as an anthem by Charles Wood in 1912. Another translation was made by the 19th-century U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; a third translation, by Robert Bridges, has appeared in several hymnals with music composed by Louis Bourgeois.
The traditional Anglican service of Evening Prayer did not call for the use of the hymn, though any of these versifications might be sung at those points in the service which provided for the singing of a hymn or anthem. More recently, some Anglican bodies have adopted it as part of the evening liturgy. For example, the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer prescribes it, in the prose translation given below, as an optional invitatory canticle immediately preceding the psalms appointed for the day.
- Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,
- οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
- ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν, ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,
- ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.
- Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
- Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς· διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.
Transliteration (into reconstructed Classical Greek pronunciation as opposed to that of the time period in which it was written)
- Phôs hilaròn hagías dóxēs, athanátou Patrós,
- ouraníou, hagíou, mákaros, Iēsoû Christé,
- elthóntes epì tḕn hēlíou dýsin, idóntes phôs hesperinón,
- hymnoûmen Patéra, Hyión, kaì Hágion Pneûma, Theón.
- Áxión se en pâsi kairoîs hymneîsthai phōnaîs aisíais,
- Hyiè Theoû, zoḕn ho didoús, diò ho kósmos sè doxázei.
- O Light gladsome of the holy glory of the Immortal Father,
- the Heavenly, the Holy, the Blessed, O Jesus Christ,
- having come upon the setting of the sun, having seen the light of the evening,
- we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God.
- Worthy it is at all times to praise Thee in joyful voices,
- O Son of God, Giver of Life, for which the world glorifies Thee.
Lumen hilare iucunda lux tu gloriæ, fons luminis de lumine, beate Iesu cælitus a Patre sancto prodiens. Fulgor diei lucidus solisque lumen occidit, et nos ad horam vesperam te confitemur cantico. Laudamus unicum Deum, Patrem potentem, Filium cum Spiritu Paraclito in Trinitatis gloria. O digne linguis qui piis lauderis omni tempore, Fili Dei, te sæcula vitæ datorem personent. Amen.
An alternative Latin rendition, much more literal, is as follows:
Lumen hilare sanctae gloriae immortalis Patris, Coelestis, sancti, beati, Iesu Christe, Quum ad solis occasum pervenerimus, lumen cernentes verspertinum, Laudamus Patrem, et Filium, et sanctum Spiritum Dei. Dignus es in tempore quovis sanctis vocibus celebrari, Fili Dei, vitae dator. Qua propter te mundus glorificat.
The Classical Armenian text, taken from the Zhamagirk' (Ժամագիրք), the Armenian Book of Hours, is:
Ալէլուիա Ալէլուիա : Լոյս զուարթ սուրբ փառաց անմահի Հաւր . երկնաւորի սրբոյ կենարարի ՅՍՈՒՍ ՔՐԻՍՏՈՍ : Եկեալքս ի մտանել արեգականն, տեսաք զլոյս երեկոյիս : Աւրհնեմք զՀայր եւ զՈրդի եւ զսուրբ Հոգիդ Աստուծոյ : Եւ ամենեքեան ասեմք Ամէն : Արժանաւորեա զմեզ յամենայն ժամ . աւրհնել ձայնիւ երգով զանուն փառաց ամենասուրբ Երրորդութեանդ : Որ տայ զկենդանութիւն վասնորոյ եւ աշխարհ զքեզ փառաւորէ :
An approximate transliteration, taking into account modern Armenian pronunciation:
Alēlouia Alēlouia. Louys zvart' sourb p'aṟats' anmahi hayr yerknawori srbo kenarari Hisous K'ristos. Yekyalk's i mtanel aregakanɘn tesak' ɘzlouys yerekoyin. Orhnemk' ɘzhayr yev zordi yev ɘzsourb hogi astoutso. Yev amenek'yan asemk' amēn. Arzhanavorya ɘzmez hamenayn zham orhnel dzayniv yergov zanoun p'aṟats' amenasourb errordout'yanɘd . Vor ta ɘzkendanout'youn vasnoro yev ashkharh ɘzk'ez p'aṟavorē.
A somewhat literal English translation of this text is:
Alleluia, Alleluia. Joyous, holy light of the glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy, vivifying Father: Jesus Christ. Having come to the setting of the sun, we have seen this evening light. Let us praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God, and together let us say, "Amen." Make us worthy for all time to bless with a voice, with a song, the name of glory of the all-holy Trinity who has given life, and for which the world glorifies thee.
ნათელო მხიარულო წმიდისა დიდებისა უკვდავისა მამისა ზეცათასა. წმიდისა ნეტარისაო იესო ქრისტე. მოსრულნი დასვლასა მზისასა მხილველნი ნათლისა სამწუხროსა ვაქებთ მამასა, და ძესა, და წმიდასა სულსა ღმერთსა. ღირსმცა-ხარ ყოველსა ჟამსა გალობად შენდა ხმითა ტკბილითა ძეო ღმრთისაო ცხოვრების მომცემელო, რომლისათვისცა ყოველი სოფელი შენ გადიდებს.
Old Church Slavonic
свѣте тихꙑи свѧтꙑѧ славꙑ беꙁсъмрьтнаего отьца
небесьнаего свѧтаего блаженнаего іисꙋсе христе
пришедъше на ꙁападъ слъньца видѣвъше свѣтъ вечерьнꙑи
поемъ отьца сꙑна и свѧтаего дꙋха бога
достоинъ еси во вьсѧ времена пѣтъ бꙑти гласꙑ преподобьнꙑми
сꙑне божии животъ даѧи тѣмъже миръ тѧ славитъ
Творе́нїе сѡфро́нїа патрїа́рха і҆ерусали́мскагѡ.
Свѣ́те ти́хїй свѧты́ѧ сла́вы, безсме́ртнагѡ ѻ҆тца̀
небеснагѡ, свѧта́гѡ блаже́ннагѡ, і҆исусе христѐ:
прише́дше на за́падъ со́лнца, ви́дѣвше свѣ́тъ вече́рнїй,
пое́мъ ѻ҆тца̀, сына, и҆ свѧта́гѡ духа, бога.
досто́инъ є҆сѝ во всѧ̑ времена̀ пѣ́тъ бы́ти гла́сы преподобными,
сыне божїй, живо́тъ даѧ́й: тѣ́мже мі́ръ тѧ̀ сла́витъ.
The top line (in red) translates as "The Work of Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem."
Transliteration into modern Russian letters: Свете Тихий святыя славы, безсмертнаго Отца небеснаго, святаго блаженнаго, Иисусе Христе: пришедше на запад солнца, видевше свет вечерний, поем Отца, Сына, и Святаго Духа, Бога. Достоин еси во вся времена пет быти гласы преподобными, Сыне Божий, живот даяй: темже мир тя славит.
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
O Gentle Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed Father, O Jesus Christ: Having come to the setting of the sun, having beheld the evening light, we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God. Meet it is for Thee at all times to be hymned with reverent voices, O Son of God, Giver of life. Wherefore, the world doth glorify Thee.
Orthodox Church in America
O Gladsome Light of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father, Heavenly, Holy, Blessed Jesus Christ! Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening, we praise God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For meet it is at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise. O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.
Another Orthodox translation
O Gladsome Light of the holy glory / of the Immortal Father, / heavenly, holy, blessed, O Jesus Christ.
Having Come to sunset / and beholding the evening light, we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: God.
Meet it is at all times that thou be hymned / with fitting voices, O Son of God, thou Giver of Life; wherefore the world doth glorify thee.
Another Orthodox translation
O Joyful Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy blessed Father, O Jesus Christ. Having come to the setting of the sun, having beheld the evening light, we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God. Meet it is at all times to hymn Thee with reverend voices, O Son of God, Giver of Life, wherefore the whole world doth glorify Thee.
Ruthenian Catholic Church
O Joyful Light of the holy glory of the Father Immortal, the heavenly, holy, blessed One, O Jesus Christ, now that we have reached the setting of the sun, and see the evening light, we sing to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (+). It is fitting at all times to raise a song of praise in measured melody to you, O Son of God, the Giver of Life. Therefore, the universe sings your glory.
Melkite Catholic Church
Oh, Joyful Light, of the Holy Glory of the Father Immortal. Heavenly, Holy, Blessed, Jesus Christ, since we have come, to the setting of the sun, and have seen the evening light, we praise God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (+). It is proper for you to be praised at all times by fitting melody. Oh, Son of God, Giver of Life, wherefore the world glorifies You.
William Storey, used in the Office of the Dead
O radiant light, O sun divine
Of God the Father's deathless face,
O image of the light sublime
That fills the heav'nly dwelling place.
Lord Jesus Christ, as daylight fades,
As shine the lights of eventide,
We praise the Father with the Son,
The Spirit blest and with them one.
O Son of God, the source of life,
Praise is your due by night and day;
Unsullied lips must raise the strain
Of your proclaimed and splendid name.
by John Keble
Hail, gladdening Light, of His pure glory poured
Who is th’immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of Holies – Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest;
The lights of evening round us shine;
We hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine!
Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung
With undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone:
Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, thy own.
by Robert Bridges
O gladsome light, O grace
Of God the Father's face,
The eternal splendour wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.
Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
Thee, his incarnate Son,
And Holy Spirit adoring.
To thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Lifegiver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify,
And shall exalt forever.
1979 American Book of Common Prayer, 1985 Anglican Church in Canada Book of Alternative Services
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.
Joyous light of glory of the immortal Father,
Heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ,
We have come to the setting of the Sun
And we look to the evening light.
We sing to God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever.
O Son of God, O Giver of Light,
The universe proclaims your glory.
Alternative version used in the Episcopal Church
Light of the world in grace and beauty,
mirror of God's eternal face,
transparent flame of love's free duty,
you bring salvation to our race.
Now, as we see the lights of evening,
we raise our voice in hymns of praise;
worthy are you of endless blessing,
Sun of our night, Lamp of our days.
Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
a szent és boldog,
mennyei Atya isteni dicsőségének,
Eljövén a Napnak lenyugvásához
és látván az esteli fényt;
áldjuk az Atyát
s a Fiút, és a Szentlélek Istent!
Mert te méltó vagy,
hogy minden időben,
szent hangon énekeljünk tenéked,
ki éltet adsz a világnak;
miért is ez a világ dicsőít téged.
Korean Anglican Church
은혜로운 빛이여, 하늘에 계시며 영원하신 성부의 찬란한 빛이여, 거룩하시고 복되시도다. 주 예수 그리스도여! 해 저무는 이 때에, 우리는 황혼 빛을 바라보며, 주님께 찬양의 노래를 부르나이다. 하나님, 성부 성자 성령이여! 주님은 언제나 찬양 받으시기에 합당하시오니, 생명을 주시는 하나님의 성자여, 온 세상으로부터 영광 받으소서.
Lusitanian Church (Anglican Communion)
Avé, alegre luz, puro esplendor
da gloriosa face paternal,
Avé, Jesus, bendito Salvador,
Cristo ressuscitado e imortal.
No horizonte o sol já declinou,
brilham da noite as luzes cintilantes:
ao Pai, ao Filho, ao Espírito de amor
cantemos nossos hinos exultantes.
De santas vozes sobe a adoração
prestada a Ti, Jesus, Filho de Deus.
Inteira, canta glória a criação,
o universo, a terra, os novos céus.
Translation by David Lewis (ap Ceredigion) 1870-1948
O lewyrch wyneb y tragwyddol Dad,
Fendigaid Fab o’r nef,
Crist Iesu, mae gwirionedd Duw a’i rad
Yn eglur ynddo ef.
Yn awr machluda’r haul yn gylch o dân,
Daw’r sêr o un i un;
A Duw – y Tad, y Mab a’r Ysbryd Glân –
Glodforwn yn gytûn.
Tydi sydd deilwng o glodforedd gwiw,
Yn wastad, Arglwydd mawr,
Tydi fo nod ein moliant, O Fab Duw,
Drwy gyrrau daear lawr.
أيها النور البهي الممجد القدوس
الآب الذي لا يموت
أيها القدوس المغبوط
يا يسوع المسيح .
إذ قد بلغنا إلى غروب الشمس
و نظرنا نوراً المساء
نسبح الآب و الابن والروح القدس
الإله المستحق في سائر الأوقات
أن يسبّح بأصوات بارة
فيا ابن الله المعطي الحياة
إنه من أجلك العالم يمجد
Pogodna światłości Ojca świętej chwały,
Nieśmiertelnego Pana niebiosów i ziemi,
Jezu Chryste. Pod zachód dzień nam dobiegł cały,
I gwiazdę już wieczorną oczami naszymi
Oglądamy w niebie, ku czci Twojej, Boże,
Ojcze, Synu, i Duchu świętości, śpiewamy,
Boś godzien jest, o Panie, by o każdej porze,
Głoszono Twoją chwałę zbożnymi pieśniami,
O wielki Synu Boży, Tyś życia szafarzem,
Przeto Ci świat pieśń chwały
wdzięcznie składa w darze.
With on-line notes or audio
|Tradition or composer||Language||Text with musical notation||Audio||Remarks|
|Byzantine Chant||English||PDF – Western notation; 2 parts (melody and ison) (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|| MP3 – 2 parts (melody and ison), retrieved 2011-12-14|
MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14
|Tone plagial 1|
|Byzantine Chant||English||PDF – Byzantine neumes (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-06, retrieved 2011-12-14||MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14||Tone 2 adapted from version attributed to John Sakellarides as chanted on the Holy Mountain|
|Byzantine Chant||English||PDF – Byzantine neumes (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-06, retrieved 2011-12-14||MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14||Tone 2 adapted from Ancient Melody as abbreviated by Socrates Papadopoulos|
|Carpatho-Russian Chant||English||PDF – 4-part harmony (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|
|Carpatho-Russian Chant||English||PDF – 2 parts (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|| MP3 – 2 parts, retrieved 2011-12-14|
MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14
|Arranged by Fr. Lawrence Margitich (Old Version)|
|Carpatho-Russian Chant||English||PDF – 2 parts (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14||Arranged by Fr. Lawrence Margitich (New Version)|
|Valaam Chant||English||PDF – 2 parts (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|| MP3 – 2 parts, retrieved 2011-12-14|
MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14
|Znamenny Chant||English||PDF – Includes 2nd part in Treble Clef for Altos (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|| MP3 – Vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14|
MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14
|Tone 5 – 'Tikhonovsky Chant' based on Znamenny Chant|
|Znamenny Chant||English||PDF – 2 parts (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14||MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14||Tone 7 – Great Znamenny Chant – difficult|
|Alexander Kopylov (1854 - 1911)||Slavonic||PDF – 4-part harmony – written in Old Orthography Russian Characters (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14||MIDI – Non-vocal, retrieved 2011-12-14||specified "not very slowly"|
|Dvoretsky||English||PDF – 4-part harmony (PDF), retrieved 2011-12-14|
|Charles Wood (1866 – 1926)||English||PDF and HTML – A cappella – Number of voices: 8vv, retrieved 2012-01-04||MID, SIB – A cappella – Number of voices: 8vv, retrieved 2012-01-04||
ChoralWiki – lyrics attributed to Keble - music score provided. (1792-1866), translated from the early Christian hymn Φως ιλαρον.
|Gouzes||French||PDF – 4-part harmony (PDF), retrieved 2012-12-31|
- O gladsome light, O grace" by Robert Bridges, to Le Cantique de Siméon (Nunc Dimittis)
- St Gabriel by Rev. Sir F. A. G. Ouseley (1825–1889)
- Christ Church by Rev E. S. Medley (1838-19--)
- Свѣте тихій (Svyetye tikhiy) from Op. 52, All-Night Vigil, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
- Sebaste by Sir John Stainer (1840–1901)
- Evening Hymn by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
- Свѣте тихій (Svyetye tihkiy) Op. 23 No.3 by Alexander Gretchaninoff (1864-1956)
- Anthem by Charles Wood (1866–1926)
- Свѣте тихій (Svyetye tihkiy) from Op. 37, All-Night Vigil, by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
- Anthem by Geoffrey Shaw (1879–1943)
- Op.28 by Craig Sellar Lang (1891–1972)
- Phos Hilaron by Alexander Flood (1977-)
- Church Music – David Crowder Band, 2009
- O Gracious Light by Mason Shefa, 2012.
- Sheet music for Lang's Op.28
- Listen to the Craig Sellar Lang version
- Listen to John Rutter conducting the Charles Wood composition
- Listen to the Chris Tomlin version
- Catholic Encyclopedia - Hymnology article
- Attributes the hymn to Basil, and mentions St Sophronius's revision
- Encyclopædia Britannica - claims it is as old as AD 200 or earlier.
- Vassiliadis, Petros. "From the Pauline Collection to Phos Hilaron of Cappadocia", p. 4--5.
- The Unabbreviated Horologion, Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery (published 1997), 1992, pp. 192–193
- Metropolitan Cantor Institute