The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Crudelis Herodes, Deum

Hymn For the Epiphany. Revised from Hostis Herodes Impie
Derived from Paean Alphabeticus de Christo

Source: "Sedulius and His Abecedary," American Ecclesiastical Review, Volume 3 (Catholic University of America: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1890), p. 443

Crudelis Herodes, Deum,
Regem venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat cŠlestia.

Ibant Magi, quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes prŠviam;
Lumen requirunt lumine:
Deum fatentur munere.

Lavacra puri gurgitis
CŠlestis Agnus attigit:
Peccata, quae non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.

Novum genus potentiŠ:
Aquae rubescunt hydriŠ,
Vinumque jussa fundere,
Mutavit unda originem.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui apparuisti gentibus,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sŠcula.

Translations of Crudelis Herodes, Deum:

Translations of Hostis Herodes Impie

Notes from Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), #46, pp. 113-114.

Author: Sedulius, 5th cent. Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation [of Why, Impious Herod, Vainly Fear] by J. M. Neale. There are about twenty-five translations, eight of which, including both texts, are in the Annus Sanctus. Liturgical Use: Vespers hymn on the Feast of the Epiphany. First line of Original Text: Hostis Herodes Impie. The texts differ only in the first two lines [and a few words in the last verse]. In the Original Text these lines read:

Hostis Herodes impie
Christum venire quid times?

This hymn is a continuation of No. 39, A Solis Ortus Cardine [the full hymn is from Paean Alphabeticus de Christo]. The word Epiphany signifies appearance or manifestation. This manifestation was threefold: To the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi (Matt. 2, 1-12); to the Jews at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Mark 1, 9-11); to the Apostles when Christ wrought His first miracle at the marriage feast at Cana (John 2, 1-11). In the hymn, it will be observed that a stanza is devoted to each of the three manifestations.

Read the articles on Epiphany, Herod, Magi and Cana, in the Cath. Encycl.

1. "Cruel Herod, why dost thou fear the coming of the Divine King! He taketh not away earthly kingdoms, who bestoweth heavenly ones." Regnum meum non est de hoc mundo (John 18, 36).

2. "The Magi proceeded, following the star, which they saw leading the way: by the aid of light, they seek the Light: by their gifts they acknowledge Him to be God." In the East it was customary when visiting kings or princes to offer them appropriate gifts. The gifts offered by the Magi were expressive of their belief in Christ's royal generation, in His divine nature, and in His human nature. Gold, the noblest of the metals, hence a gift suitable for a king, was symbolical of His royal generation: frankincense is a symbol of prayer, and was therefore, an acknowledgment of His Divinity; and myrrh, which is used in embalming, was expressive of His mortality as man.

3. "The Heavenly Lamb touched the cleansing bath of the limpid waters: by washing us, He took away (sustulit) sins which He Himself had not committed (detulit)." Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi (John 1, 29). "It is the teaching of St. Thomas that the Baptism of Christ was the occasion when He gave to Christian Baptism its power of conferring grace; but that the necessity of this Sacrament was not intimated to men till after the Resurrection" (Father Hunter's Outlines of Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II, p. 532).

4. "A new manifestation of power: the water of the jars becomes red, and the water which was bidden to issue forth as wine, changed its nature." HydriŠ is the subject, and aquŠ the genitive of contents. Constr.: Et unda (quŠ) jussa (est) vinum fundere, mutavit originem. The following is the Catholic poet Crashaw's beautiful epigram on the miracle at Cana:

Lympha pudica Deum vidit et erubuit.
The modest water saw its God and blushed.

Editor's Note:

See the extensive notes following A Sortis Ortus Cardine.

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