1 O Splendor of God’s glory bright,
from light eternal bringing light,
O Light of light, light’s living Spring,
true Day, all days illumining:
2 Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
in lasting radiance from above,
and pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
on all we think or do today.
3 And now to thee our pray’rs ascend,
O Father, glorious without end;
we plead with Sovereign Grace for pow’r
to conquer in temptation’s hour.
4 Confirm our will to do the right,
and keep our hearts from envy’s blight;
let faith her eager fires renew,
and hate the false, and love the true.
5 O joyful be the passing day
with thoughts as pure as morning’s ray,
with faith like noontide shining bright,
our souls unshadowed by the night.
6 Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies,
let him, our perfect Morn, arise,
the Word in God the Father one,
the Father imaged in the Son.
Jesus, the Splendor of God’s Glory
There is a good chance that you learned the alphabet through a song– “A B C D E F G” sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Music has always been used to teach, and was especially valuable when literacy was comparatively rare. It is a great way to transmit knowledge in a fixed and memorable form.
The Church early on recognized the value of good hymns for teaching sound doctrine. Paul calls us to be “teaching and admonishing one another in the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:15). Our hymn of the month, “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright,” does just that, teaching the doctrine of the divinity of Christ in beautiful poetry. It is also a prayer, calling for aid in our walk with God throughout the day. It was written in the fourth century by the very influential pastor Ambrose of Milan, who is credited with, among other things, being instrumental in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest theologians God ever gave the Church.
The first verse captures well the idea of Jesus being the express image of God. “God of God, Light of Light”, the Nicene Creed says, capturing the paradox of the Eternal Generation well—Jesus is fully God of Himself, but in His Person comes from the First Person eternally, so that He is God from God, Light from Light. Jesus comes to earth, God Himself and sent by God, to shine the light of God’s eternal glory on this sad, cursed world.
Jesus said as a result of His ascension that He would send the Holy Spirit to His people, and that promise is called upon in verse two, that Jesus would indeed pour the Holy Spirit out on us. Jesus’ glorification means that the power of His revelation of truth to the world is not limited to His thirty-three or so years on earth, but continues afresh today. So the writer prays for the power of the Spirit in an imminent sense—that He might be with us, and communicate to us the light of Christ even now. Likewise in verse three, the writer pleads for grace in the matter of battling the temptation to sin. This hymn is a prayer, as many are, and should be sung as a prayer, directed toward God.
Envy gets mentioned specifically in verse four. The writer recognizes the great power of envy, as any experienced pastor knows. The power of envy is mighty to cause all kinds of other sins, but envy often disguises itself as righteous anger or a justified resentment over some kind of fault that others may have done to us. The power of the Spirit is necessary to reveal the hidden motives of our hearts, very often hidden even from ourselves. Faith, trust in God, is the antidote to all forms of envy and resentment, and so the writer asks for a renewal of trust in God to steer our minds right in the second half of verse four.
Verse five calls on God’s assistance in strengthening faith throughout the day. The writer uses the light of the day as a metaphor for knowledge, joy, and faith, so that all day we have the joy of the sunrise, the clarity of the noontime, but none of the gloom or fear of the night.
Jesus is called the Bright and Morning Star in the book of Revelation, and is frequently described by the prophets as the dawning of a great light on the earth. So the writer calls Him our “perfect Morn.” He is truly the Light of the World, and whatever understanding or truth that any person has is because of Him. Through greater faith in Him and careful study of His words and those of His authorized interpreters, the apostles and prophets, we can see that glory and that truth even more clearly, and come more fully to understand the Father Himself. And that is the only way we can do so, for no man comes to the Father but through Him. So the last lines of the hymn form a beautiful inclusio with the first—Jesus is the Word of the Father, the perfect communication of the Father’s truth and power, and in Jesus, and only in Jesus, the Father is perfectly displayed in His glory to the world.