O Gracious Light

One element I miss from my daily prayers as an Anglican is the Phos Hilarion, “O Gracious Light.” This is an ancient Eastern hymn that is used in the Vespers of the Byzantine Liturgy used by Eastern Catholics and Orthodox. It also appears in the most recent revision of the American Book of Common Prayer. It was in the BCP that I became familiar with it. When I switched over to using the Latin Rite version of the Liturgy of the Hours, I no longer used the prayer. Nonetheless, I am thinking of adding it to my evening prayers once again. Using light imagery for Christ was common in the early Church, both in Scripture (e.g. John 8:12, where Jesus tells us he is “the light of the world”), and in Patristic writings and creeds (e.g. the Nicene Creed, “…Light from Light”). I will admit, while I find this light language fascinating and beautiful, it seems foreign to me as a Western Christian (which is probably my own fault!).

Below is an ancient Greek version of the Phos Hilarion, and the English translation used by the Anglican-Use Book of Divine Worship. The Book of Divine Worship is the official worship book used by Anglican parishes officially received into the Catholic Church, and is based on the Book of Common Prayer.

Φῶς ἱλαρὸν
ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός, οὐρανίου,
ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,

ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν,
ἰδόντες φῶς ἐσπερινόν, ὑμνοῦμεν
Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.

Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς·
διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing thy praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thou art worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified though all the worlds.

Image of Ohio evening, taken by me.