Phos Hilaron (also known as ‘Hail, Gladdening Light’) was written sometime between 290 and 300 AD. Its first mention is found in the Apostolic Constitutions, which makes it the earliest known Christian hymn text to be written down, apart from those which come from the Bible. Its early use was as a hymn to be sung before meals, but its associations today are very much with the evening time: it is also known as the ‘Lamp-lighting Hymn’ and is part of the Orthodox Churches’ liturgy for Vespers, and the evening liturgies of several denominations worldwide.
John Keble translated the Greek into English meter in 1834. Many musical settings have been written for this text. A famous version for eight voices was composed by Charles Wood, and Sir John Stainer wrote a simpler, four part setting.