Use: General, Evening
Required Resources: SATB choir
The Greek hymn Phos hilaron first appears in the Apostolic Constitutions, which was written in the late 3rd or early 4th century.
Meant to be sung at the lighting of lamps in the evening, it is sometimes called the "Lamp-lighting Hymn."
Saint Basil the Great (329-379 AD) spoke of this hymn, considered old even in his day, as a cherished traditional song of the church.
At that time in Jerusalem, a lamp was kept burning in the empty tomb of Christ, a symbol of the living light of Jesus.
As Christians gathered to worship, the hymn was sung and a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright, solitary flame calling the Church to celebrate the Risen Lord.
The bishop Saint Athenogenes (d.305 AD) is believed by some to have composed this hymn on his way to being martyred. On entering the flames, he sang the Phos hilaron in joy.
Jason Cole has set an English translation of the Greek hymn for SATB choir, a cappella.
In the first two-thirds of the work (in c minor) he deftly alternates unison passges with homophonic writing.
The conclusion is a G Major contrapuntal setting of the text, "and to be glorified through all the worlds. Amen."