Friday, May 09, 2008

Hymns for Pentecost

Pentecost (or "Whitsunday" in the Anglican tradition, because it was a day for Baptism when people dressed in white) is a top-level feast when it comes to hymnody in particular and chant in general. [EDIT: As always, don't forget to check at Full Homely Divinity for more about Pentecost.]

Here's a video of of one of the most well-known of all Christian hymns, Veni Creator Spiritus, sung by the Schola Cantorum of Amsterdam Students:

Here are the words in Latin and English from the page at the above link:

VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.

The page at the link also has this to say about the hymn:
One of the most widely used hymns in the Church, Veni, Creator Spiritus, is attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856). It is used at Vespers, Pentecost, Dedication of a Church, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and whenever the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite it. A plenary indulgence is granted if it is recited on January 1st or on the feast of Pentecost.

This hymn is #504 in the 1982 hymnal, and I do very much love to sing it; it's just about perfect as music goes, I think.   These are the English words from that source (tr. John Cosin, 1594-1672); I like these better than the version above:
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy seven-fold gifts impart.

Thy blessèd unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soilèd face
With the abundance of Thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home:
Where Thou art guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And Thee of both to be but one,
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song;

Praise to Thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Here's an audio file of the same hymn, from

Another gorgeous hymn for Pentecost is the Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus:

Here's what TPL says about it:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Its beauty and depth have been praised by many. The hymn has been attributed to three different authors, King Robert II the Pious of France (970-1031), Pope Innocent III (1161-1216), and Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, of which the last is most likely the author.

Here's more about the song:
"Veni Sancte Spiritus" ("Come, Holy Spirit") is the sequentia of the Mass for Pentecost, sung from Whitsunday until the Saturday following, although it is also in many Protestant hymnals. Composed of ten stanzas, this "Golden Sequence," as it's sometimes termed, is—from an hymnologist's perspective, although not a theologian's—slightly odd in being directed entirely to the third Person of the Trinity: most hymns are to the Father or the Son—there's simply more material available on which to base them. General consensus dates the hymn some time between the middle of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The translation below is not mine, but seems decent enough, though non-literal. Although some would chafe at the Elizabethan pronoun usage, it doesn't detract overmuch.

Here's the full score, with the Latin words:

This is the translation referred to above; it's really a very beautiful song:

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die,
Give us life with thee on high,
Give us joys that never end.


Here's an mp3 of Veni Sancte Spiritus from the Brazilian Benedictines.   Here is the page of all the Pentecost mass chants from the same site.

Here are several mp3 files from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood, for Pentecost:
For Lauds: When Christ Our Lord Had Passed Once More (mp3), Jam Christus astra ascenderat in Latin. It's #42 in Hymn-melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books; on this page page you will find the words in English and Latin. (The Sarum hymns book calls the Lauds hymn "Impleta gaudent viscera," which again is an extracted portion of the longer Jam Christus astra ascenderat. The latter hymn is listed in the book as the hymn for 1st Vespers and Matins.)

Here's a Versicle for the Feast of Pentecost.

For Vespers: Rejoice, the Year Upon Its Way (mp3), Beata nobis gaudia in Latin. It's #25 in the Hymn-melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books; the words in English and Latin (though not this English translation) can be found on this page.

For Compline: it's Veni Creator Spiritus, as above.

And a bonus file! A Solemn Nunc Dimittis, with a Pentecost antiphon.

By the way, the site linked above, The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal, seems to be new (and growing as we speak). So there's lots of hymn stuff happening these days!

I'd also like to add that even given all the above, my favorite Pentecost hymn is still "Come Down, O Love Divine," with the tune Down Ampney by RVW.  Here's a wonderful video of the hymn; the singers are the wonderful Choir of King's College, Cambridge:

Here are the splendid words, from Bianco of Siena in the 15th Century:
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with Thine own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, til earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let Thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
Shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.

It's not my favorite arrangement, but I did find an mp3 of a vocal version worth listening to, on this page.

There are lots of great Pentecost images at Textweek, too. Here are a few nice ones.

This one's a fresco in the Abbey Church at Aldersbach, and was painted by Kosmas Damian Asam, after 1720:

Here's another fresco in the Upper Church at San Francesco, Assisi. It's from the 1290s, and was painted by Giotto di Bondone:

This is Hans Multscher, from 1437; I always like those chunky, square figures. I'm a big fan of 20th Century propaganda and populist (i.e., Thomas Hart Benton) art, too; I just like the style.

Interestingly, the style in Europe, it seems, was to put Mary in the center of the scene, and frame her all around with the 12 Apostles. But at Pentecost, there were hundreds, both men and women - which is why I like this one:

The Orthodox often don't even bother with Mary, BTW! But they did here, and they sure do a good job with color:

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