Church of England Diocese of Truro Manaccan

Hymn choice this week

Meneage Church Circle Hymn choice 17 January 2021

My hymn this week is the popular Epiphany hymn ‘Brightest and best’. It begins with a most vivid and evocative description of the journey made by the wise men led by the ‘Star of the east’. They see the ‘infant Redeemer’ among the ‘beasts of the stall’: ‘cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining’. But, we are told, it is in vain for us to offer costly gifts to Christ: ‘Richer by far is the heart’s adoration, / Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor’. The language of the first verse echoes Job 38:7, ‘when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’. ‘Brightest and best’ was among the earliest hymns written by Reginald Heber, rector of Hodnet in Shropshire. It first appeared in 1811 in an evangelical magazine, the Christian Observer, even though Heber was strongly High Church. Hymns were not yet part of the Anglican tradition, and Heber’s collection, Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service remained unpublished until 1827, after his death. He had become Bishop of Calcutta in 1823, but died while swimming in a cold pool after preaching to a large congregation on a hot day. ‘Brightest and best’ has been set to many tunes, but the most familiar is ‘Epiphany’, composed by J. F. Thrupp (1827–67), vicar of Barrington, Cambridge. I’ve chosen a fine performance by the Choir of the Abbey School, Tewkesbury, recorded in 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC2SgFZBy_E

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining,
Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall:
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would his favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons<sup> </sup>of the morning;
Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
Reginald Heber (1783–1826)