Proposed for inclusion in


A Great and Mighty Wonder

St. Germanus I
translated from the Greek by John Mason Neale
altered or retranslated by various anonymous persons

The English text of this Christmas hymn exists in several variants. I give here a version of Neale's text with a refrain; this is the commonest approach in recent decades, and is usually set to ES IST EIN ROS. A common variant appeared in many Lutheran hymnals beginning about 1880; the Cyber Hymnal™ has separate pages for the Neale and Lutheran versions.

Hymnary text authority (99 instances)
Cyber Hymnal™ page(Neale's translation)
Cyber Hymnal™ page(Lutheran translation)

1 A great and mighty wonder,
a full and holy cure!
the Virgin bears the infant
with virgin honour pure:

Repeat the hymn again!
'To God on high be glory,
and peace on earth shall reign.'

2 The Word becomes incarnate,
and yet remains on high;
and cherubim sing anthems
to shepherds from the sky: [Refrain]

3 While thus they sing your monarch,
those bright angelic bands,
rejoice, ye vales and mountains,
ye oceans, clap your hands: [Refrain]

4 Since all he comes to ransom,
by all be he adored,
the infant born in Bethl'em,
the Saviour and the Lord: [Refrain]

The author was St. Germanus I, Patriarch of Constantinople, ca. 700 (original Greek title: Μέγα καὶ παράδοξον θαύμα), but in early publications of his translation, Neale misattributed the original lyrics to St. Anatolius (with many hymnals perpetuating his error), with stanzas of four lines and nowadays usually a refrain of three lines, and the second line reading "a full and holy cure", and one altered anonymously and appearing mainly in Lutheran hymnals starting in 1880, with four-line stanzas and no refrain, and a second line reading "our Christmas festal brings". The history of the English text is more convoluted than that, though; Neale himself revised his first stanza more than once, and in at least one version used the word "festal".


The Hymnary database shows 9 tunes paired with this text; Neale's seven-line version is almost always paired with ES IST EIN ROS, while the most popular setting for the Lutheran version is ST. HILDA (Knecht), which most of the instances call KOCHER. I also give settings to ST. ALPHEGE and to CHRISTUS DER IST MEIN LEBEN.