LSB 874 O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright

We have chosen the ancient hymn O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright (LSB 874) as our AD 2023 Epiphanytide seasonal hymn. The word epiphany means revelation or manifestation. During this season in the Church Year, we recount, from Scriptures a number of manifestations of our Lord Jesus. Epiphanytide begins with January 6th’s High Feast of the Epiphany.  The season varies in length from year to year, due to the annual shifting of the date of the Feast of the Resurrection. This year we will observe three Epiphanytide Sundays.  On those Sundays we will hear about His Baptism, His first miracle at Cana, His healing of the leper and of the centurion’s servant. Through them, we behold Jesus even as we confess Him in the Creeds.1 

Jesus is the Light of the World,2 therefore, the season is often known as the Season of Light. Our hymn is a prayer to our Triune God. The first stanza begins a petition to the Second Person of the Trinity.  It picks up the theme of our Lord Jesus as Light of Light. He is the exact imprint of God’ nature.3 He is the One in Whose face God has shone in us the light of the knowledge of His glory.4 God is light, thus Jesus, very God, is light.

The second stanza continues as we beseech our Lord, as “the very Sun of truth and love.”  We are reminded that He is the One through Whom we and all things were made.  He was crucified to atone for our sins.  He was raised from the dead to declare us right with the Father.   He shines on us, sending the light of the life-giving Holy Spirit Who is given to guide, “all we think or do or say.”  That is to say, He wills to work over the entire breadth of our lives, thus holding God to His promises to us.5

The third and fourth stanzas continue with a petition to the First Person of the Trinity, our heavenly Father.  It echoes the Lord’s Prayer, specifically the Fifth (in part), Sixth and Seventh Petitions.  Again, the hymn moves us to call upon God to keep holding to His promises to us.6 Since we are baptized and thus believe and confess the Son as Very God, Lord and Savior, we have the right to petition God the Father and He hears our prayers!7

The fifth stanza continues the petition to the Father for His grace that we continue to receive His Son’s Very Body and Blood in His Divine Services to us, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.8 This stanza recalls the later words of Dr. Luther, which we sing frequently here at Catalina Lutheran Church (CLC), “May God bestow on us His grace and favor … nor despise this blessed Communion.”9

The final stanza – added a number of centuries after the hymn was first penned -concludes with a Trinitarian doxology.10

Each of the stanzas concludes with “Alleluia,” or “All of you praise the Lord.”

O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright was originally written by Ambrose of Milan (339/40-397), who confronted the Arian heresy with sermons and written materials that expressly confess the eternal Holy Trinity.11 This hymn is a beautiful example of his strong confession of this Scriptural truth.

Our hymn leads us to remember that we are free to take our petitions to Jesus, and through Him directly to the Father, all the while confessing our complete dependence on Him and knowing that He will listen! He has promised us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation as we gather to hear His Word and receive His Sacrament here at CLC. What more could we possibly need? We are thankful to God that He has called you into our midst today and pray His richest blessings on you during this Epiphanytide and throughout the Church Year.

End notes:

  1. Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, Second Article
  2. John 1:4-9, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46
  3. Hebrews 1:3
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:6
  5. John 1:3-4, 14, 15:26-27, 16:4b-15; Acts 4:3; Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 1:18-19; 1 John 4:8, 16; c.f. Malachi 4:2
  6. Matthew 6:12-13; 1 Corinthians 10:13
  7. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-6
  8. Here the LSB references several verses from John 6; faithful Lutherans disagree on whether or not they refer to the Lord’s Supper. Clearer references may be found in the narrative of the Institution of the Supper at Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. On being filled with the Spirit, see Ephesians 5:18.
  9. LSB 617.3
  10. The Latin hymn was traditionally sung by monks at the daily 3AM service of Lauds, anticipating the sunrise. The use of the word “laud” in this stanza may be a reference to this. See Carl P. E. Springer, “O Splendor of God’s glory bright,” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book, Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019), pp. 1363-1364.
  11. The Arian heresy denied the divinity of Christ, maintaining that He was created by the Father and not co-eternal with Him. For more on Ambrose, see Gifford A. Grobien, “Ambrose of Milan” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book, Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019), pp. 189-190.

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