Bethlehem, of Noblest Cities Hymni
This hymn is composed of four verses from the Hymn for the Epiphany from Prudentius' (384-413) Cathemerinon, which is 52 stanzas long. In 1568, four short hymns were assembled from selected stanzas from Prudentius' hymn and introduced into the Breviary by Pope Pius V. This hymn is one of them and is used in the Roman Breviary at Lauds on Epiphany.
O SOLA magnarum urbium
maior Bethlehem, cui contigit
ducem salutis caelitus
Haec stella, quae solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.
Videre postquam illum Magi,
eoa promunt munera:
stratique votis offerunt
thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.
Regem Deumque annuntiant
thesaurus, et fragrans odor
thuris Sabaei, ac myrrheus
pulvis sepulchrum praedocet.
Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui apparuisti gentibus,
cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula.
From the Roman Breviary.
BETHLEHEM! of noblest cities
none can once with thee compare;
thou alone the Lord from heaven
didst for us Incarnate bear.
Fairer than the sun at morning
was the star that told His birth;
to the lands their God announcing,
hid beneath a form of earth.
By its lambent beauty guided,
see the eastern kings appear;
see them bend, their gifts to offer-
gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.
Solem things of mystic meaning!-
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a royal Child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.
Holy Jesu, in Thy brightness
to the Gentile world displayed,
with the Father and the Spirit,
endless praise to Thee be paid.
Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878).
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