Wake the Day With Gladness

This Morning’s Sonshine Broke Through Storm Clouds

Today we commemorate the heavenly birthday of sainted Good King Wenceslas! Many westerners have been introduced to him through an ancient Christmas Carol, retelling one of his miracles.

In this carol, St. Wenceslas helps distribute alms to the needy on the Eve of the Feast of St. Stephen the Apostle, Deacon, and Protomartyr (celebrated on the third day of Christmas); when the churches were opened and yearly collections from the Poor Alms Boxes were dispersed among the needy of the community. This was the original purpose and meaning of Boxing Day!

St. Wenceslas was martyred on today’s date (September 28/October 11) in the year 935. He is buried in Prague. 

A beautiful hymn was penned in the 9th century by St. Joseph the Hymnographer – a Greek monk, and one of the many liturgical poets and hymnographers of the Orthodox Church. The hymn was later translated into English, and woven into the ancient 13th century carol melody used for Good King Wenceslas.

This ancient hymn was also later sung on St. Stephen’s feast day and many other special days of the martyrs. Some churches add on St. Joseph the Hymnographer’s hymn to carol of Good King Wenceslas, as an extra and final verse:

Christian friends, your voices raise.
Wake the day with gladness.
God Himself to joy and praise 
turns our human sadness: 
Joy that martyrs won their crown, 
opened heav’ns bright portal, 
when they laid the mortal down 
for the life immortal.

Whatever we do, let us always try to do our very best to please God our Creator… that we may wake each day with gladness, and rejoice to see heaven’s bright portal break through the clouds… to illumine the way ahead!

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might

St. Caedmon’s Day Greetings

Thank you Fr. Serafim Mull Monastery for kind permission to use St. Caedmon’s Icon.

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. ~ Psalm 96:1

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; ~ Ephesians 5:19

…a psalm is the work of angels, a heavenly institution, the spiritual incense. ~ St. Basil the Great

Today is St. Caedmon’s Day! This 7th British Saint heard angels sing and wrote the earliest English poem in existence.

It’s heart-piercingly beautiful, and after wading through these Latin, Northumbrian, West Saxon translations and sources of his work… I knew this poem was just aching to be adapted into a simpler, modern English read.

Sadly, no original music remains of St. Caedmon’s hymn, and alas and alack, I never found any olden West Saxon melodies to work with… They’re scarcer than hen’s teeth!

You can imagine how thrilling it was to encounter the ancient 13th century Byzantine Greek Chant, Defte Lai and know how the majestic melody would also suit the adaptation of St. Caedmon’s poem. It’s pure joy to reclaim Defte Lai’s ageless air for another venerable Orthodox Hymn.

One of St. Caedmon’s contemporaries was the Greek monastic – St. Theodore of Tarsus, who became the 8th Archbishop of Canterbury England, so my Byzantine nod isn’t too far removed.

Here’s the pdf sheet music for my 2022 adaptation and recording below of St. Caedmon’s Hymn.

3 chords used in this recording – while leaning on my ukulele crutch are: Fm; Cm; and B♭m

St. Caedmon’s Creation Hymn:

Come magnify Him,
Creator of the firmament,
Author of each and all,
And glorify His purpose;
Love, Invincible.

Come and honour Him,
Protector of Fair Paradise,
Holy, Mighty, Immortal,
Architect, Omnipotent;
Father of Glory.
Blessed, Timeless, Lord,
Thou hast established Thy wonders,
Before middle earth* was formed,
Or adorned with Thought of Mind;
Lord, God Almighty!

For the sons of men;
Thou formed the Roof of Heaven!

* Middle earth (not just a Tolkien invention)- it means the world, the middle enclosure – which exists between heaven and hell. From Middle English middel-erde, and Old English middangeard.

Through the Holy Prayers of St. Caedmon, may we – through the Wonderful Mystery of Creation, magnify our Blessed and Timeless Lord!

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