“John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ …. The one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” (Mt 3:1-2, 11b)
Hear the Herald's Voice Resounding
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) gives us the mighty figure of John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Lord, a “voice crying out in the desert” to prepare the way for the Lord. Like O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Creator of the Stars of Night (in next week's newsletter), Hear the Herald's Voice Resounding comes to us from the liturgy.
John has been an Advent guide for the Church since the Patristic Era, and the Advent hymn that appears in our hymnals today under several titles and translations originated in 6th century Rome as a hymn for Lauds (Morning Prayer in the Breviary). The 1848 poetic translation by Edward Caswall may be the best known English version. It is rendered in 8787 meter, meaning that the verses consist of four lines alternating eight and seven syllables. Caswall was a friend of Blessed John Henry Newman, who crafted his own poetic rendition of the same Latin hymn (in the same 8787 meter, too).
Sister Anne Flanagan is a singer with the Daughters of St Paul Choir.
Here is an English church choir singing Caswall's translation to the tune “Merton”:
Listen to a Dominican friar sing the Latin chant version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO5akJqdIug
Here are the lyrics in Caswall's 1849 hymnal:
1. Hark! a herald voice is calling:
'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say;
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!'
2. Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.
3. Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven;
4. So when next he comes with glory,
Wrapping all the earth in fear,
May he then as our defender
Of the clouds of heaven appear.
5. Honor, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
While unending ages run.