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The advent of Christ is often said to be threefold; that of the past, in the flesh and in weakness, that of the present, in spirit and in power, and that of the future, in glory and in majesty. The three may be found in these hymns; the past in intacta prodis victima, 34, 12 as well as in 35, 3-4 and 36, 7-10; the present in defende nos ab hostibus, 34, 20 and the future in 35, 9–12.
Creator alme siderum, Aeterna lux credentium, Jesu, redemptor omnium, Intende votis supplicum.
s Qui, daemonis ne fraudibus
Periret orbis, impetu
Jesus, loving creator of the heavenly bodies eternal light of the faithful and redeemer of all men, hear Your suppliants' prayers. For, urged on by generous love, You became a healing power to a sick world to prevent it being, through the devil's wiles, sick even to its death. You went forth as a sinless victim from Mary's sacred womb to die on the Cross to atone for the sin of all mankind. The might of Your glory and the reverence which the very mention of Your name inspire are so great that heaven and hell tremble and adore. We beseech You, our mighty judge at the last day, defend us with the arms of heavenly grace from our enemies.
Commune qui mundi nefas 10 Ut expiares, ad crucem
E virginis sacrario
Cujus potestas gloriae
Nomenque cum primum sonat, IS Et caelites et inferi
Tremente curvantur genu.
Te deprecamur ultimae
Armis supernae gratiae 20 Defende nos ab hostibus.
Verbum supernum prodiens
Heavenly Word, proceeding from the eternal Father's bosom, by Your birth You came to man's help when time's course was
The Vesper hymn is built round the idea of siderum, the Matins one is a good summary of the chief ideas of Advent and the Lauds one is inspired by the message of the Baptist. They were greatly altered, to their disadvanatge, by the revisers, especially the Vesper one, of which only one line 'was left unaltered, and only twelve words of the original were retained', B.
Notes on Hymn 34 Author. Unknown. Perhaps of the seventh century. mundi vespere. This mundi vespere is balanced by Use. Vespers of Advent.
labente cursu temporis, 35, 4, itself a variant of the 1. siderum, i.e. the heavenly bodies, including the original cursu declivi temporis. sun and moon. 'The word strikes the keynote of the II. sacrario, sacred womb; lit. shrine, sacristy, hymn, forecasting the light which Christ, Himself secret place. the eternal light, was to bring into the world', W. 13-14. Cujus=cujusmodi; supply est. Nomenque;
7. Languidi, sick; cf. curavit lauguidos eorum, Mt. the que joins 13 and 14, both leading to 15. In 15 the 14, 14, and 10, 6, note. The revisers ruined this as a first et, strictly, should be ut. hymn. At 5-6 and 10-11, if the words are phrased 15. caelites, especially with the capital normally properly, the music is ruined; if the music is given printed in Breviaries, must mean those in heaven. first place, the
But the original is caelestia, terrestria, where caelestia 8. medela, healing, cure; cf. confer medelam means the sun, moon, etc. thus keeping the unity of languidis, 49, 12.
siderum of line 1. Some MSS have an extra verse 9-12. The revisers changed the main idea from after 16 which explains caelestia as: Occasum sol sponsus to victima, though sponsus is connected custodiens,/
Luna pallorem retinens,/Candor in astris with the motif of the heavenly bodies through the relucens/Certos observans limites. Revisers and editors sol of Ps. 18, 6. They also took out the reference are fond of changing stars into angels and saints; cf. to Vespers contained in the original line 9, Vergente e.g. 14, IS.
Notes on Hymn 35 Author. Unknown. Variously dated as fifth, 1. supernum, heavenly; cf. Ego de supernis sum, seventh, eighth and even eleventh century. The last John 8, 23. Prodiens ... sinu of the eternal generation one is certainly wrong.
of the Son. In the original, the comma must come Use. Matins of Advent.
after prodiens, the line then being the equivalent of O s Illumina nunc pectora
Tuoque amore concrema,
drawing to its close. Shine Your light into our hearts now and inflame them with Your love so that heavenly desire and joy may take possession of a heart emptied of earth's fleeting
a desires. And thus, when the Judge on His throne sentences sinners to hell and a welcoming voice calls the saints to the heaven promised them, may it be that we are not cast into the black whirlpool as food for the flames but that we be granted the vision of God and possess the joys of heaven,
Ut, cum tribunal judicis 10 Damnabit igni noxios
Et vox amica debitum
Non esca flammarum nigros
Volvamur inter turbines, 15 Vultu Dei sed compotes
Caeli fruamur gaudiis.
En clara vox redarguit
s Mens jam resurgat torpida
Non amplius jacens humi;
The Baptist's message of rebuke rings loud and clear through all the world of darkness: Away with dreams of darkness. Jesus, the light, is shining in the sky. Let the slothful soul now arise and no longer lie earth-bound, for a new sun is now shining, Christ, Who will take away every sin. Behold the Lamb is sent to us to pay freely the debt we owe. Therefore let all of us together, with tears of sorrow, ask for His pardon so that when He comes in glory at the end of time and causes fear in all hearts, He will not then punish us, as our sins deserve, but in His pity be our protector.
En Agnus ad nos mittitur 10 Laxare gratis debitum;
Omnes simul cum lacrimis
Ut, cum secundo fulserit
Metuque mundum cinxerit, Is Non pro reatu puniat
Sed nos pius tunc protegat.
2. THE CHRISTMAS SEASON Jam lucis orto sidere we sing at Prime, and the same words could well be used to describe the feast of Christmas. The Light of the world has appeared, the Redeemer has come. The two themes of redemption and light are found right through the
Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti; cf. 73, 1, cremare. The hymn is one long sentence, illumina and note.
concrema being the main verbs. 4. labente, drawing to its close; not, as B, fleeting. II. amica, welcoming; debitum, due, because proIt is a revision of cursu declivi (sloping) temporis, as if mised by Christ, to those who use His grace well, time were falling, setting, towards its evening—the Mt. 25, 34. Incarnation being thought of as coming in the even- 13. esca flammarum, predicate after volvamur. ing of the world's history; cf. 34, 9, note.
IS. compotes, having gained, having been granted, 6. concrema, inflame, B and W. But W also sug- the vision, vultu, of God. Compotes usually governs gests that it may mean ‘and in thy love burn them a genitive, as in vultus compotes, 62, 15, but here it has up', which better suits the usual meaning of con
an ablative-classical, but rare.
Notes on Hymn 36 Author. Unknown. Probably of the fifth century. 5-6. Some take torpida with jacens, prostrate in Use. Lauds of Advent.
sloth; others take it with mens, the slothful soul, the 1. clara. If vox refers to the Baptist's message, soul that once was slothful. clara means unambiguous, forthright, loud. But if 7.
may refer to the star of Jacob, Num. 24, vox be taken as referring to the person of the Baptist 17, to the sun of justice, Mal. 4, 2 or to the stella as in Ego vox clamantis in deserto, John 1, 23, clara splendida et matutina of Apoc. 22, 16. would refer to a personal quality, e.g. the famous 8. This line and the next refer to John 1, 29. Baptist. The unrevised line Vox clara ecce intonat 10. laxare=solvere, pay our debt. Gratis, freely; could easily mean that.
cf. justificati gratis per gratiam ipsius, Rom. 3, 24. redarguit, contradicts, refutes, rebukes.
13. secundo fulserit in contrast with refulget of line 2. Some make obscura quaeque the object of re- 7. Fulserit, shine or, if the equivalent of fulgens darguit, personans then meaning loudly resounding, advenerit, comes in glory. filling the world with the message. Others interpret 14. cinxerit, girdles the world with fear. Unreredarguit absolutely, obscura quaeque then being taken vised: mundumque horror cinxerit. after personans. Quaeque, everything; cf. 2, 13. 15. pro reatu, in proportion to, according to, our Personans; cf. 19, 6, note.
guilt; cf. 29, 3. The rest of the hymn is the Baptist's message.
Christmas liturgy, and no full appreciation of these hymns is possible except against the background of the Missal as well as of the Breviary, for the hymns are rather reticent, especially on the theme of light.
The feast of the birth and the feast of the Epiphany stand at either end of this
season; the former thinks more of God becoming man and the latter of the God who became man. The Epiphany is the inevitable climax of the season, not a pale reflection of the feast of the birth.
‘And the Word was made flesh.' The Babe is the lumen et splendor Patris, 37, 5, the equal of the Father in glory, 37, 3 and the rerum conditor, 37, 9. Such is He who took our flesh, 37, 10-12, and we praise Him natalis ob diem tui, 37, 23. Likewise in 38, He is God the creator, 5, 8, 24 and 28; but He is also man, newly-born and helpless, 4 and 23. There is, however, a great difference in the approach of the writers of 37 and 38. The heavenly Father and the divinity of the Son who became man are to the fore in 37, while the Mother of the God-man and the helplessness of the new-born Child inspired Sedulius in 38.
Jesu redemptor omnium,
Pater supremus edidit.
Tu spes perennis omnium,
Memento, rerum conditor, 10 Nostri quod olim corporis
Sacrata ab alvo virginis
Currens per anni circulum,
Mundi salus adveneris.
Jesus, redeemer of all men, You were begotten by the mighty Father, before light was created, as His equal in glory. Do You, the Father's light and radiance and man's unfailing hope, accept the prayers of Your servants the world over. Remember, creator of the world, that long ago, at Your birth, You took our body's form from the Virgin's holy womb. The present day, as it comes round every year, bears witness to this—that You, the only-begotten of the Father, have come to be man's salvation. The heavens, the earth, the sea and every creature under heaven greet Him with a new song as the author of new salvation. And we too, cleansed by the redeeming stream of Your holy blood, make this gift of a hymn of praise on Your birthday.
Hunc astra, tellus, aequora,
Salutis auctorem novae 20 Novo salutat cantico.