Called "Phos Hilarion" in Greek (the language it was composed in), "Hail Gladdening Light" is the earliest extant non-Biblical hymn. It is sung daily in Greek Orthodox Vespers services, and also used sometimes in Anglican and Lutheran services. It is also called the "Lamp-lighting Hymn," though when Athenogenes was singing it, he was the lamp that was being lit.
The story says that the eleven Christians were being burned to death for refusing to apostatize. The executioner was impelling them forward into the flames, but his arm was paralyzed until Athenogenes had finished his hymn. Only then did the martyrs proceed to their deaths, but by then the hymn had been committed to the memory of witnesses. The opening lines are:
- Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,
- οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,...
- Phôs hilaròn haghías dóxēs, athanátou Patrós,
- ouraníou, haghíou, mákaros, Iēsoû Christé,...
NB. There may have actually been two different saints named Athenogenes who were martyred by Diocletian (odds are that he took out more than two) and are celebrated on July 13. One account says that the Bishop of Pidachthoa and his ten companions were beheaded while another guy named Athenogenes composed the hymn before burning to death. If so, blessed be both.