Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2021 / 06:45 am
Written in the fifth century and translated into English by Anglican convert Fr. Ronald Knox, the celestial hymn "What Fairer Light?" is sung each June 29th on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. The author may surprise students of philosophy and the great books: it is Elphis, the wife of Boethius.
Hailed a Saint in the Eastern Church, Boethius is author of The Consolation of Philosophy, considered by scholars to be one of the most important texts for the medieval period and required reading for any medieval student of philosophy or theology. Elphis, who also goes by Rusticiana, gets high praise from her husband in his book influential and popular book.
In some way, the Church takes up this praise of Elphis each Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul by recognizing the genius of her poetry and the inspiring vision she presents of the joint role of Rome's most illustrious saints. Given the beauty of her hymn and its longevity in liturgy, we may ask which of the two, husband or wife, had a longer lasting and deeper impact on the Church.
Hymn for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul
Elphis/Rusticiana, c 493, wife of Boethius c 477– 524
Translation: R A Knox, 1888-1957