A great and mighty wonder

A great and mighty wonder. Greek, attributed to St Germanos of Constantinople* (ca. 655-before 754), translated by John Mason Neale* (1818-1866).

The Greek text, ‘Mega kai paradoxon thauma tetelestai’, is found in editions of the Menaea (twelve sections, one for each month, or ‘men’, hence the name Menaea) where it is attributed to Germanos of Constantinople* (or Germanus, for whom see Sabine Baring-Gould*, The Lives of the Saints, New Edition, 1897, v. 174-80). Neale’s translation appeared in his Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862), in the ‘First Epoch’, from 360 to 726, entitled ‘Stichera for Christmas-Tide’. Neale ascribed it wrongly to St Anatolius, because the stanzas adjoin those by him. His translation began

A great and mighty wonder,
    The festal makes secure:

It had six four-line verses, made from the two verses of the Greek. The text was much altered by the compilers of EH, with the last three lines of Neale’s verse 3 taken out and used as a refrain. This permitted the verse form to fit the German carol melody used for ‘Es ist ein' Ros entsprungen’*.

This is a hymn that has become very widely known since the combination of words and tune appeared in EH. It is now found in books of all denominations and countries. The text is printed in The New Oxford Book of Carols, edited by Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott (Oxford and New York, 1992), p. 221, notes p. 222).


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