The Phos Hilaron is attributed by some to St. Athenogenes (died c. 305), Bishop and martyr. A theologian, Athenogenes died as a martyr in the reign of Emperor Diocletian by burning with ten disciples at Sebaste. Traditionally, it is believed that Athenogenes sang the Phos Hilaron in joy as he entered the flames.
One of the earliest surviving Christian hymns, the Lamp-lighting hymn was described by St. Basil about 365 A.D. as a hymn used centuries before him. In the Second Century it was apparently in use in the catacombs by early Christians.Historically, the hymn was used in the Byzantine vespers liturgy. St. Justin the Martyr cites the text of the hymn about 150 A.D. in his dialogue with Trypho. Although it pre-dated the Byzantium, it is referred to as "Byzantine." It is clearly Greek in its musical form and composition, while it possesses a text that is clearly Jewish in origin and conforms to the Jewish calendar in which the day ends and begins at sunset.
Phos Hilaron, literally , hilarous light (no connection with St. "HILARY"), has continued in use in churches of the Greek Orthodox tradition to the present day. It did not become part of the Western tradition and indeed was probably unknown in the West before around 1700 and is now included in the Anglican, Book of Common Prayer. The earliest English translation was made in 1675. The earliest translation following the line-scheme of the original Greek was made by John Keble in 1834. Another version was made by Robert Bridges, poet laureate of England, around 1890.
See this excellent article: Phos Hilaron: The Metamorphoses of a Greek Hymn (The Hymn, April 1989, pp. 7-12)
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