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Crudelis Herodes, Deum

Why, impious Herod, vainly fear

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Crudelis Herodes, Deum
    Regem venire quid times?
    Non eripit mortalia,
    Qui regna dat cœlestia.
  2. Ibant Magi, quam viderant,
    Stellam sequentes præviam:
    Lumen requirunt lumine:
    Deum fatentur munere.
  3. Lavacra puri gurgitis
    Cœlestis Agnus attigit:
    Peccata, quæ non detulit,
    Nos abluendo sustulit.
  4. Novum genus potentias:
    Aquæ rubescunt hydrise,
    Vinumque jussa fundere,
    Mutavit unda originem.
  5. Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
    Qui apparuisti Gentibus,
    Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
    In sempiterna sæcula.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. New miracle of power divine!
    The water reddens into wine:
    He spake the word: and poured the wave
    In other streams than nature gave.
  5. All glory, Lord, to Thee we pay
    For Thine Epiphany to-day:
    All glory, as is ever meet,
    To Father and to Paraclete.
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:
Hostis Herodes impie
Christum venire quid times?
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 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.” 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.