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O sola magnarum urbium

Bethlehem, of noblest cities

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. O sola magnarum urbium
    Major Bethlem, cui contigit
    Ducem salutis cœlitus
    Incorporatum gignere.
  2. Quern stella, quæ solis rotam
    Vincit decore, ac lumine;
    Venisse terris nuntiat
    Cum carne terrestri Deum.
  3. Videre postquam ilium Magi,
    Eoa promunt munera:
    Stratique votis offerunt
    Thus, myrrham, et aurum regium.
  4. Regem Deumque annuntiant
    Thesaurus, et fragrans odor
    Thuris Sabæi, ac myrrheus
    Pulvis sepulchrum prædocet.
  5. Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
    Qui apparuisti Gentibus,
    Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
    In sempiterna sæcula.
  1. Bethlehem, of noblest cities
    None can once with thee compare;
    Thou alone the Lord from heaven
    Didst for us incarnate bear.
  2. 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.
  3. By its lambent beauty guided,
    See, the eastern kings appear;
    See them bend, their gifts to offer,
    Gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.
  4. Solemn things of mystic meaning:
    Incense doth the God disclose;
    Gold a royal child proclaimeth;
    Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.
  5. Holy Jesu, in Thy brightness
    To the Gentile world displayed,
    With the Father and the Spirit,
    Endless praise to Thee be paid.
Author: Prudentius (348-413). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation By Father Caswall. There are twenty-two translations. Father Caswall’s translation is lofty, dignified, and musical; it is more extensively used than all others combined. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Lauds on the Feast of the Epiphany. This hymn is a cento from the Quicumque Christum quæritis. See hymn 41. Read the articles on Bethlehem, Saba, Magi, and Epiphany, in the Cath. Encycl.
  1. “O highly favored Bethlehem, greater than the great cities, to whom it was given to bring forth from heaven the Prince of salvation, in human form.” Sola, unique, singularly honored. Magnarum urbium = magnis urbibus (abl.), a Graecism. This construction is more common with pronouns than with nouns (cf. Kaulen’s Handbuch zur Vulgata, pp. 258-260).
  2. “And a star which surpassed the disk of the sun in beauty and in splendor, announces to the nations that God has come clothed in earthly flesh.” Quem = et.
  3. “As soon as the Magi behold Him, they bring forth their Eastern gifts; and prostrate, together with their prayers, they offer incense, myrrh, and royal gold.” Videre — viderunt. Et procidentes adoraverunt eum; et apertis thesauris suis obtulerunt ei munera, aurum, thus, et myrrham (Matt. 2, 11).
  4. “The gold and the fragrant odor of Sabean incense proclaim Him King and God, and the dust of myrrh foreshadows the tomb.” Sabceus, adj., from Saba, the chief city of Arabia Felix, celebrated for its myrrh and frankincense. Myrrheus, adj., of myrrh, perfumed with myrrh. Reges Tharsis et insulæ munera offerent; reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent (Ps. 71, 10).