The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Canons of Christmas Day by St. Cosmas

"This is perhaps the finest, on the whole, of the Canons of Cosmas; and may fairly be preferred to the rival composition of S. John Damascene." John Mason Neale, Hymns of the Eastern Church (1884).


ODE I.

Χριστὸς γεννᾶται· δοξάσατε

Christ is born! Tell forth His fame!
Christ from Heaven! His love proclaim!
Christ on earth! Exalt His Name!
Sing to the Lord, O world, with exultation!
Break forth in glad thanksgiving, every nation!
                For He hath triumphed gloriously!

Man, in God's own Image made,
Man, by Satan's wiles betrayed,
Man, on whom corruption preyed,
Shut out from hope of life and of salvation,
To-day Christ maketh him a new creation,
                For He hath triumphed gloriously!

For the Maker, when His foe,
Wrought the creature death and woe,
Bowed the Heav’ns, and came below,*
And in the Virgin's womb His dwelling making,
Became true man, man's very nature taking;
                For He hath triumphed gloriously!

He, the Wisdom, Word, and Might,
God, and Son, and Light of light,

Undiscovered by the sight
Of earthly monarch, or infernal spirit,
Incarnate was, that we might Heav’n inherit;
                For He hath triumphed gloriously!

Footnotes by Rev. Neale:

*The reference is, of course, to Psalm xviii. 9; "He bowed the Heavens also, and came down."

Rev. Neale also noted: "In Mr. Young's book. The melody by Dr. Schroeder." See:  Christ Is Born! Tell Forth His Fame!

 

ODE III.

τῷ πρὸ τῶν αιώνων.

Him, of the Father's very Essence,
  Begotten, ere the world began,
And, in the latter time, of Mary,
  Without a human sire, made Man
       Unto Him, this glorious morn,
         Be the strain outpoured!
       Thou That liftest up our horn,
         Holy art Thou, Lord!

The earthly Adam, erewhile quickened
  By the blest breath of God on high,
Now made the victim of corruption,
  By woman's guile betray’d to die, p. 134
       He, deceived by woman's part,
         Supplication pour’d;
       Thou Who in my nature art,
         Holy art Thou, Lord!

Thou, Jesus Christ, wast consubstantial
  With this our perishable clay,
And, by assuming earthly nature,
  Exaltedst it to heavenly day.
       Thou, That wast as mortal born,
         Being God ador’d,
       Thou That liftest up our horn,
         Holy art Thou, Lord!

Rejoice, O Bethlehem, the city
  Whence Judah's monarchs had their birth;
Where He that sitteth on the Cherubs,
  The King of Israel, came on earth: p. 135
       Manifested this blest morn,
         As of old time never,
       He hath lifted up our horn,
         He shall reign for ever!

 

ODE IV.

Ῥάβδος ἐκ τῆς πίζης.

Rod of the Root of Jesse,
  Thou, Flower of Mary born,
From that thick shady mountain* 
  Cam’st glorious forth this morn:
Of her, the ever Virgin,
  Incarnate east Thou made,
The immaterial Essence,
  The 
God by all obeyed!
      Glory, 
Lord, Thy servants pay
      To Thy wondrous might to-day!

The Gentiles’ expectation,
  Whom Jacob's words foretell,
Who Syria's pride shalt vanquish,
  Samaria's pride shalt quell;
Thou from the Root of Judah
  Like some fair plant dost spring,
To turn old Gentile error
  To Thee, its God and King!
      Glory, Lord, Thy servants pay
      To Thy wondrous might to-day!

In Balaam's ancient vision
  The Eastern seers were skilled,
They marked the constellations,
  And joy their spirits filled:
For Thou, bright Star of Jacob,
  Arising in Thy might,
Didst call these Gentiles first-fruits
  To worship in Thy light.
      They in holy reverence bent,
      Gifts acceptable present.

As on a fleece descending
  The gentle dews distil,
As drops the earth that water,
  The Virgin didst Thou fill.
For Media, leagued with Sheba,
  Falls down and worships Thee:
Tarsihish and Ethiopia,
  The Isles and Araby.
      Glory, Lord, Thy servants pay
      To Thy wondrous might to-day

Footnote by Rev. Neale:

* The reference is to the Song of Habakkuk; [iii. 3], where the LXX. give—"God shall come from Teman, and The Holy from the thick and shady mountain of Paran." See: Habakkuk In Ancient Song - John of Damascus, Γενους Βροτέιου τήν άνάπλασιν πάλαι, from the Canon of Christmas Day.

 

ODE V.

Θεὸς ὢν εἰρήνης.

Father of Peace, and God of Consolation!
  The Angel of the Counsel dost Thou send
To herald peace, to manifest Salvation,
  Thy Light to pour, Thy knowledge to extend;
Whence, with the morning's earliest rays,
Lover of men! Thy Name we praise.

Midst Cæsar's subjects Thou, at his decreeing,
  Obey’dst and was enrolled: our mortal race,
To sin and Satan slave, from bondage freeing,
  Our poverty in all points didst embrace:
And by that Union didst combine
The earthly with the All-Divine.

Lo! Mary, as the world's long day was waning,
  Incarnate Deity conceived and bore;
Virgin in birth, and after birth, remaining;
  And man to God is reconciled once more
Wherefore in faith her name we bless,
And Mother of our God confess.

 

ODE VI.

σπλάγχνων Ἰωνᾶν.

As Jonah, issuing from his three days’ tomb,
  At length was cast, uninjured, on the earth;
So, from the Virgin's unpolluted womb
  The Incarnate Word, That dwelt there, had His Birth:
For He, Who knew no taint of mortal stain,
Willed that His Mother spotless should remain.

Christ comes, Incarnate God, amongst us now,
  Begotten of the Father ere the day:
And He, to Whom the sinless legions bow,
  Lies cradled, ’midst unconscious beasts on hay:
And, by His homely swaddling-bands girt in,
Looses the many fetters of our sin.

Now the New Child of Adam's race draws nigh,
  To us, the faithful, given: This, this is He
That shall the Father of Eternity,
  The Angel of the Mighty Counsel, be:
This the eternal God, by Whose strong hands
The fabric of the world supported stands.

 

ODE VII.

οἱ παῖδες εὐσεβείᾳ.

The Holy Children boldly stand
Against the tyrant's fierce command:
The kindled furnace they defy,—
No doom can shake their constancy
They in the midmost flame confess’d,
"God of our Fathers! Thou art bless’d!"

The Shepherds keep their flocks by night;
The Heav’n glows out with wondrous light;
The glory of the Lord is there,
The Angel-bands their King declare:
The watchers of the night confess’d,
"God of our Fathers! Thou art bless’d!"

The Angel ceas’d; and suddenly
Seraphic legions fill’d the sky:
"Glory to God," they cry again:
"Peace upon earth, good will to men:
"Christ comes! "—And they that heard confess’d,
"God of our fathers! Thou art bless’d!"

What said the Shepherds?—"Let us turn
This new-born miracle to learn."
To Bethlehem’s gate their footsteps drew:
The Mother with the Child they view:
They knelt and worshipp’d, and confess’d,
"God of our Fathers! Thou art bless’d!"

 

ODE VIII.

θαύματος ὑπερφυοῦς ἡ δροσοβόλος.

The dewy freshness that the furnace flings
Works out a wond'rous type of future things:
Nor did the flame the Holy Three consume,
Nor did the Godhead's fire thy frame entomb,
  Thou, on Whose bosom hung the Word:
  Wherefore we cry with hearts endeavour,
  "Let all Creation bless the Loin,
  And magnify His Name for ever!"

Babel's proud daughter once led David's race
From Sion, to their exile's woful place:
Babel now bids her wise men, gifts in hand,
Before King David's Royal Daughter stand, p. 146
  The Mother of the Incarnate Word:
  Wherefore we cry with heart's endeavour,
  "Let all Creation bless the Lord,
  And magnify His Name for ever!"

From music grief held back the exile's hand:
"How sing the Lord's song in an alien land?"
But Babel's exile here is done away,
And Bethlehem's harmony this glorious day
  By Thee, Incarnate God, restored:
  Wherefore we cry with heart's endeavour,
  "Let all Creation bless the Lord,
  And magnify His Name for ever!"

Of old victorious Babel bore away,
The spoils of Royal Sion and her prey:
But Babel's treasure now, and Babel's kings,
Christ, by the guiding star, to Sion brings, p. 147
  There they knelt, and there ador’d:
  Wherefore we cry with heart's endeavour,
  Let all Creation bless the Lord,
  And magnify His Name for ever!"

 

ODE IX.

μυστήριον ξένον.

O wond’rous mystery, full of passing grace!
  The grot becometh Heav’n: the Virgin's breast
The bright Cherubic Throne: the stall that place,
  Where He, Who fills all space, vouchsafes to rest:
  Christ our God, to Whom we raise
  Hymns of thankfulness and praise!

The course propitious of the unknown Star
  The Wise-men follow’d on its heavenly way,—
Until it led them, beckoning from afar,
  To where the Christ, the King of all things, lay:
  Him in Bethlehem they find,
  Born the Saviour of mankind.

"Where is the Child," they ask, "the new-born King,
  Whose herald-light is glittering in the sky,—
To Whom our offerings and our praise we bring?"
  And Herod's heart is troubled utterly.
  Armed for war with God, in vain
  Would he see that Infant slain.

Editor's Footnote:

See also:

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