Hymn #138: Jesus, Our Brother, Strong and Good

This traditional French carol has been traced to the twelfth century.  It has often been referred to as "The Friendly Beasts" and may have been used as part of a Nativity play.  In the United States it was used in Clarence Dickinson's 1920 catata, The Coming of the Prince of Peace.

It is eash to imagine individuals dressing up as the animals mentioned in this text and singing the appropriate stanza.  For people who could not read the Scriptures for themselves in medieval times, such plays portrayed an understanding of the Christmas event, even if not entirely biblical.

This French melody is called ORIENTIS PARTIBUS, from the beginning of a medieval Latin and old French text meaning "from the Eastern regions the donkey is now come."  It was part of a church festival begun at Rouen, France, in the tenth century which celebrated the donkey that carried Mary.

Pierre de Corbeil (d. 1222?), who became archbishop of Sens in 1200, wrote a liturgy for the Office of Circumcision and included this tune from a familiar church festival.  The festival paid tribute to the role of the donkey that carried Mary to bethlehem and later to Egypt to escape persecution.