Today is the feast of St. Hilary (c. 315-367). Just over 300 years after the birth of Christ, Hilary was born into a pagan family in Poitiers, France. He was converted while reading the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. In particular, the verse from Exodus when God says to Moses “I am Who I am” spoke strongly to Hilary’s heart. He was amazed at the clear definition of God.
Hilary was elected bishop, and spent a number of years in exile due to his defense of orthodox Christian faith. He also loved the psalms and was a poet. Seeing that poetry set to music was an excellent teaching tool for the faith, he set about to compose Latin hymns. Some have called him the Father of western hymn singing. He began this tradition in the West and was soon followed by St. Ambrose and other hymn writers. Below is an excerpt from his hymn on the “Giver of Light” which he wrote in exile and sent to his daughter for her to recite in the morning to encourage her in the faith.
O splendid Giver of the light,
Though darkness covered earth before,
Now that the gloomy night has passed,
Thy brightness fills the sky once more.
Though art the world’s true Morning Star,
Not that which dimly in the night
Is herald of the dawn to come
And shines with only meager light,
But brighter even than the sun,
The clearest Light and Day thou art,
Enlightening with blazing rays
The inner depths of mind and heart.