Crudelis Herodes, Deum
Why, impious Herod, vainly fear
Author: Sedulius, 5th cent.
Meter: Iambic dimeter.
Translation By J. M. Neal.
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. In the Original Text these lines read:
- Crudelis Herodes, Deum
Regem venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat cœlestia.
- Ibant Magi, quam viderant,
Stellam sequentes præviam:
Lumen requirunt lumine:
Deum fatentur munere.
- Lavacra puri gurgitis
Cœlestis Agnus attigit:
Peccata, quæ non detulit,
Nos abluendo sustulit.
- Novum genus potentias:
Aquæ rubescunt hydrise,
Vinumque jussa fundere,
Mutavit unda originem.
- Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui apparuisti Gentibus,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.
- Why, impious Herod, vainly fear
That Christ the Saviour cometh here?
He takes no earthly realms away
Who gives the crown that lasts for aye.
- To greet His birth the Wise Men went,
Led by the star before them sent;
Called on by light, towards Light they pressed,
And by their gifts their God confessed.
- In holy Jordan’s purest wave
The heavenly Lamb vouchsafed to lave;
That He, to whom was sin unknown,
Might cleanse His people from their own.
- New miracle of power divine!
The water reddens into wine:
He spake the word: and poured the wave
In other streams than nature gave.
- All glory, Lord, to Thee we pay
For Thine Epiphany to-day:
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.
This hymn is a continuation of No. 39, A solis ortus cardine.
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
|Hostis Herodes impie|
Christum venire quid times?
Read the articles on Epiphany, Herod, Magi and Cana,
in the Cath. Encycl.
- “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).
- “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.
- “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).
- “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.” Hydriæ is the subject, and
aquæ the genitive of contents. Constr.: Et unda (quæ)
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.
Copyright Benziger Brothers, 1922. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney, 2019.