The Oldest Christmas Carol, Jesus Refulsit Omnium

Oldest Christmas Carol. Wise Men and Infant Jesus in Manger

The oldest Christmas Carol historians have knowledge of is a 4th century motet or Epiphany: ‘Jesus Refulsit Omnium’ – Jesus, Light of All the Nations – exactly translating Jesus, the brilliance of all. It depicts the sudden realization that enlightened the Magi, the Wise Men, when they finally arrived to the stable where infant Jesus had been born and it was created by St. Hilary of Poitiers between 310 – 367 (most probably without any instrumental backing).

Listen to this touching rendition of Jesus Refulsit Omnium as performed by the Chamber Choir of George Watson’s College at the annual Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, on 16th December 2015:

You can find the choir, a capella sheet music here. The lyrics in Latin are below:

Jesus refulsit omnium
Pius redemptor gentium
Totum genus fidelium
Laudes celebret dramatum

Quem stella natum fulgida
Monstrat micans per authera
Magosque duxit praevia
Ipsius ad cunabula

Illi cadentes parvulum
Pannis adorant obsitum
Verum fatentur ut Deum
Munus ferendo mysticum.
(Source)

 The Magi by Henry Siddons Mowbray, 1915 . oldest christmas carol Jesus Refulsit Omnium
The Magi by Henry Siddons Mowbray, 1915

This is the English translation by Kevin Hawthorne, PhD :

‘Jesus, devoted redeemer of all nations, has shone forth,
Let the whole family of the faithful celebrate the stories

The shining star, gleaming in the heavens, makes him known at his birth and, going before, has led the Magi to his cradle

Falling down, they adore the tiny baby hidden in rags,
as they bear witness to the true God by bringing a mystical gift.’

Saint Hillary of Poitiers, whose first name comes from the Latin word for happy or cheerful, hilari, was a Bishop of Poitiers who later received the title of Doctor of the Church. It is worth mentioning that in Latin doctor means ‘teacher’ – thus Doctor of the Church recognized a significant contribution brought to theology through research, study, or writing. Three hymns are attributed to St. Hillary of Poitiers thus making him the first Latin Christian hymn writer.

Charles Bosseron, Adoration of the Magi. oldest christmas carol Jesus Refulsit Omnium
Charles Bosseron, Adoration of the Magi

What exactly is a motet?

A motet is a short, sacred vocal composition. I love the etymology of the word motet. Originating in the Latin movere, ‘to move’, it depicts the movement (against each other) that the various voices produce during the song. Yet considering motet as a diminutive deriving from the French mot, ‘word’, it depicts a ‘little word’ – thus a short song.
The medieval motet most probably became the sacred Renaissance madrigals.

I am Christian Orthodox, yet I love the peace that washes over me when I listen to Catholic vocal compositions, late-medieval to present. My native language, Romanian, resonates closely to its Latin roots and the one year of Latin study I did in school has added an aura of mystery and enchantment to this now dead language.

I hope you enjoyed listening to what is believed to be the oldest Christmas carol, Jesus Refulsit Omnium.

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

Wishing everyone a blessed Holiday Season!

Which one is your favorite Christmas song?

You might also enjoy reading A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara, Romania.

WW1, Christmas 1914 Truce Song by Catherine Rushton, Music Monday

WW1 Christmas Truce

Through blog posts or books, war and dogs are a constant presence on my blog. My thoughts seem to gravitate towards them. Since yesterday we made our first Christmas decorations for this year, Noel was on my mind and so it happened that I discovered this musical gem on YouTube: a Christmas war song – how else? Christmas 1914 – Truce Song was composed by talented Catherine Rushton in 2004. Ten years later she published this soulful, folk song online at a friend’s request. It has almost 13 000 views now.

To help UK veterans suffering from PTSD, Catherine donated the WW1 Christmas Truce Song to Combat Stress for Veteran’s Mental Health. You can visit Catherine’s fundraising page here.

Here are the lyrics and guitar chords for Christmas 1914 Truce Song by Catherine Rushton

G ………………………………………………. C ………………. G
I am Private Angus Turnbull of the Highland Infantry.
……. C ……………….. G …………. D7
In Flanders field I fought the Hun.
………. G …… D7 ….. C …………….. G
And there I fell, but I’ve a tale to tell
………………………….. D7 ……………….. G C G
Of the Christmas I witnessed at the front.

‘Twas early Christmas morning when we heard the strangest sound
As silence crept through no-man’s land,
And the next we knew a German gunner crew
Had crossed the halfway line to shake our hands.

D7 ……………………………………… C …………… G
We were enemies one day and brothers the next.

……………….. D7 ……………….. C ……………………… G
We shared photographs and beer and schnapps, jokes and cigarettes.

…………. Em ……………… Am ………D7 ……….. C
‘Twas a sight I wish all mankind could have seen,

………… G ……….. D7 …………… G C G
That Christmas, nineteen fourteen.


For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang
‘Til it came time to say farewell.
Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds
And just like that we all were back in hell.

….. And we showed the world that peace was not a dream ….

Two weeks later I was buried while the war ran on and on
‘Til thirty million lost their lives,
But don’t weep for me beneath this poppy field
For I saw paradise before I died.

…. And I came to understand what Christmas means …

G
Stille Nacht, heilige nacht
Am …….. D …. G
Alles schlaft, einsam wacht
C ……………………….. G
Nur das traute hochheilige paar
C ……………………. G
Holder knabe im lockigen haar
Am ……… D ………….. G
Schlaf in himmlicher ruh!
G ………… D ………….. G
Schlaf in himmlicher ruh!

I hope you enjoyed listening to the hauntingly beautiful WW1 Christmas 1914 Truce Song by Catherine Rushton.

WW1 Christmas Truce song and football game
Armistice Day football match at Dale Barracks between German soldiers and Royal Welsh fusiliers to remember the famous Christmas Day truce between Germany and Britain -source PCH

During the WW1, in the winter of 1914m a Christmas Day football truce game between Germans and the British was won 2-1 by Germans. It was started by a soccer ball kicked from a British trench and ended by two German snipers.

WW1 Christmas Truce song and  Illustrated London News – the Christmas Truce  1914 – source wikipedia
Illustrated London News – the Christmas Truce 1914 – source wikipedia

Christmas Truce, Weihnachtsfrieden, Trêve de Noël, took place during 24-25 December 1914: British, French & German crossed the trenches to exchange greetings and play soccer.

If you d wonder, no Christmas Truce took place during WW2 although a German woman, Elisabeth Vincken, sheltered and fed three US soldiers and four German ones, all lost and hungry. Nearby the Battle of the Bulge was taking place. It was Christmas Eve, Heiligabend 1944.

WW1 Christmas Truce song and WW2 Christmas time, Battle of Bulge
Battle of the Bulge-WW2, Christmas time

Whatever you do this Festive Holiday, however you choose to celebrate it, do spare a thought for those who fell during the countless wars we put behind us, be it in historical locations or not, or are still taking place.

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!