Thursday, July 23, 2009

Verbum Supernum Prodiens

There are in existence two different versions of this hymn. About the original Verbum supernum prodiens (Celestial Word, to This Our Earth), TPL has this:
Verbum supernum prodiens dates to somewhere around the 6th or 7th century and can be found in monastic breviaries of the 10th century. The hymn is used for the Office of the Readings as an Advent Hymn.

LLPB calls this Verbum supernum prodiens High Word of God (mp3); this is the Sarum Advent Mattins hymn melody.  Here's the chant score, and below that the Latin words, along with the English translation (Oremus says it's by Charles Bigg, 1906) used on the audio file:

VERBUM supernum prodiens
a Patre lumen exiens,
qui natus orbi subvenis
cursu declivi temporis:

Illumina nunc pectora
tuoque amore concrema;
audita per praeconia
sint pulsa tandem lubrica.

Iudexque cum post aderis
rimari facta pectoris,
reddens vicem pro abditis
iustisque regnum pro bonis,

Non demum artemur malis
pro qualitate criminis,
sed cum beatis compotes
simus perennes caelites.

Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Sancto Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

High Word of God, who once didst come,
Leaving Thy Father and Thy home,
To succor by Thy birth our kind,
When, towards Thy advent, time declined,

Pour light upon us from above,
And fire our hearts with Thy strong love,
That, as we hear Thy Gospel read,
All fond desires may flee in dread;

That when Thou comest from the skies,
Great Judge, to open Thine assize,
To give each hidden sin its smart,
And crown as kings the pure in heart,

We be not set at Thy left hand,
Where sentence due would bid us stand,
But with the saints Thy face may see,
Forever wholly loving Thee.

Praise to the Father and the Son,
Through all the ages as they run;
And to the holy Paraclete
Be praise with Them and worship meet. Amen.

Giovanni Viannini sings this to another melody, though:

TPL also has a listing for the later Thomas Aquinas version of Verbum supernum prodiens, about which it says:
Verbum Supernum was written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in honor of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at the specific request of Pope Urban IV (1261-1264) when the Pope established the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. It is used as a hymn at Lauds on Corpus Christi. The last two stanzas are used for the hymn O Salutaris Hostia (O Saving Victim).

In the Sarum rite, too, this Verbum Supernum Prodiens is used at Lauds on Corpus Christi.   Here's the Sarum melody, as prescribed in Hymn melodies for the whole year, from the Sarum service-books:

Here is an mp3 file of this hymn melody (courtesy of the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood) as used for the Ascension hymn "O Eternal Monarch" (in Latin, Eterne Rex altissime).  Simply use this melody, substituting in the words to Verbum Supernum Prodiens, below.

Again, these are the words of Aquinas' version of the hymn. As you can see, again the last two verses make up the text for one of the very famous hymns sung about the Holy Eucharist; this time it's O Salutaris Hostia ("O Saving Victim"):   
Verbum supernum prodiens,
Nec Patris linquens dexteram,
Ad opus suum exiens,
Venit ad vitæ vesperam.

In mortem a discipulo
Suis tradendus æmulis,
Prius in vitæ ferculo
Se tradidit discipulis.

Quibus sub bina specie
Carnem dedit et sanguinem;
Ut duplicis substantiæ
Totum cibaret hominem.

Se nascens dedit socium,
Convescens in edulium,
Se moriens in pretium,
Se regnans dat in præmium.

O salutaris hostia,
Quæ cæli pandis ostium,
Bella premunt hostilia;
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.

The heavenly Word proceeding forth,
Yet leaving not his Father's side,
And going to His work on Earth,
Has reached at length life's eventide.

By false disciple to be given
To foemen for His blood athirst,
Himself, the living bread from heaven,
He gave to his disciples first.

In twofold form of sacrament,
He gave His flesh, He gave His blood,
That man, of soul and body blent,
Might wholly feed on mystic food.

In birth man's fellow-man was He,
His meat while sitting at the board;
He died, our ransomer to be,
He reigns to be our great reward.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gates of heaven to man below;
Our foes press hard on every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

All praise and thanks to thee ascend
For evermore, blessed One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end,
In our true native land with Thee. 

Here's Giovanni Vianini's rendition of an Ambrosian version of this hymn (not the same tune as given above):

Our good friend Derek the Ænglican has explained this in the comments: "This is another one of those where Aquinas has taken an early medieval hymn and tweaked it for different theological purposes. As a result there are two texts with the same incipit. It can be quite confusing and I wish Thomas would just stop it...". I disagree with Derek in this one instance, because I love "O Salutaris Hostia," and am happy that Thomas tweaked it - but I do see his point.

So, there are two hymns with the same name - but for the purposes of this post, I'm really interested in the words to the Aquinas hymn, and the last two verses specifically, which are:
O salutaris hostia,
Quæ cæli pandis ostium,
Bella premunt hostilia;
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.

The English words I'm familiar with are these:
O saving victim, opening wide
the gate of heaven to us below,
our foes press on from every side
thine aid supply, thy strength bestow.

All praise and thanks to thee ascend
for evermore, blest One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end
in our true native land with thee.

The translation above is from Edward Caswall, 1849, and John Mason Neale, 1854, says Oremus Hymnal. And this is the famous hymn that's sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; at my local convent, it's sung every day immediately following Vespers, to one of eight different tunes.

Here's an mp3 of an Elgar version, a very beautiful motet that I've fallen absolutely in love with, sung by the St. Clement's choir. (I know a different version, which is also very beautiful, but alas cannot find it online.)

Here is the Durham Cathedral Choir singing yet another Elgar version at the Church of Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc de Versailles:

Here's another version:
The procession, exposition, incensing of the altar and singing of "Oh Salutaris Hostia" in preparation for the Litany of the Sacred Heart and the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Filmed at Mother Angelica's Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama.

I'm not sure what this is, but I do really like it:

Here's Giovanni Vianini's Ambrosian Chant Hymn version of Verbum supernum prodiens:

Lastly, here's a beautiful version of the original Verbum supernum prodiens (the Mattins hymn), composed by Damijan Močnik and sung by the University of Utah Singers (unfortunately, the sound is not very strong):

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