Thursday, June 02, 2011

Rex Omnipotens die hodierna ("The King Eternal as upon this Holy Day"): The Ascension Sequence

The Sequence Hymn for Ascension Day - today - is, according to Hymn Melodies for the Whole Year from the Sarum Service-books, "Rex Omnipotens die hodierna" ("The King Eternal as upon this Holy Day"). Here's the chant score itself:

Unfortunately - and as is pretty usual, for the lesser-known Sequence hymns - it's difficult to find recordings of this music online. Anonymous 4 did an 8-minute version called "Sequence with Prose: Salvator mundi/Rex omnipotens die hodierna," of which you can find short clips here and there. There's one on their website, from the CD "1000: A Mass for the End of Time," that gives a bit of the flavor of the piece (and includes some of the other mass chants for Ascension). Amazon offers this similar 30-second cut.

The Latin words are, I think, these - taken from a book called (yes!) Archaeologia, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, Volume 46, Part 2 (which seems to have words to many of the Sequences):
Prosa adseguentia Cithara, de Ascensione Domini. Alleluia.

Rex omnipotens, die hodierna,
Mundo triumphali redempto potentia,
Victor ascendit caelos unde descenderat
Nam quadraginta postquam surrexerat
Diebus sacris confirmans pectore
Apostoloru[m] pacis clara reliquens oscula
Quibus et dedit potestatem laxandi crimina,
Et misit eos in mundum baptizare cunctas animas,
In patris et filii et sancti spiritus dementia
Et conuescens precepit eis ab ierosolomis
Ne abirent sed expectarent promissa munera. [f. 1456.]
Non post multos enim dies mittam uobis spiritum paraclitum in terra
Et eritis mihi testes in ierusalem iudea siue samaria.
Et, cum hoc dixisset, uidentibus illis elevatus est, et nubes clam
Suscepit eum ab eorum oculis intuentibus illis aera.
Ecce stetere amicti duo uiri in ueste clara
Juxta, dicentes quid admiramini caelorum alta?
Jesus enim, hie qui assumptus est a uobis ad patris dextera[m]
Vt ascendit ita ueniet querens talenti commissi lucra,
0 deus maris poli arcei. hominem quern creasti fraude subdola
Hostis expulit paradiso et captiuatum secum traxit ad tartara.
Sanguine proprio quem redemisti deo [f. 146]
Illuc et rediens unde prius corruit paradisi gaudia,
Iudex, cum ueneris iudicare secula,
Da nobis petimus sempiterna gaudia in sanctorum patria
In qua tibi cantemus omnes alleluia.
[Bodl. MS. 775, f. 145. Cott. Cal. A, xiv. f. 61. MS. Beg. 2, B. iv. f. 97 vo. Sarnm Gradual, f. 143 vo.]

Here's an English translation, from The Latin hymns in the Wesleyan hymn book : studies in hymnology, by Frederic W. MacDonald (1899) (here's a PDF of this book):
This day the King omnipotent,
Having redeemed the world by His triumphant might,
Ascends a Conqueror to heaven, whence He had come.
Through forty holy days after He rose He tarried.
Confirming the souls of the Apostles ;
To whom, bequeathing the sweet kiss of peace,
He gave the power to bind and loose,
And sent them to baptize all men
In the mercy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And, eating with them, bade them not depart
From Jerusalem, but wait for the promised gifts.
Not many days hence will I send to you the Spirit, the
And ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and
And when He had this said, while they beheld He rose,
and a bright cloud
Received Him from their sight, they gazing upward.
Behold, two men, in white robes clad, stood by, and said :
Why look ye to high heaven ?
For this Jesus, who is taken from you to the right hand of
the Father,
As He ascended so shall come, seeking His gain of the
entrusted talent.
O God of ocean, air, and field, man whom Thou didst
create, and whom by guile
The foe drove out of paradise, and led a captive with him
to the abyss,
Whom by Thine own blood Thou hast redeemed, O God,
Bring back again thither whence first he fell.
To joys of paradise.
When Thou the judge, to judge the world shalt come,
Grant us, we pray Thee, everlasting joy
In the homeland of saints.
Where we all shall sing to Thee, Alleluia."

I do wish these Sequences were more readily available! Maybe I'll get some singers together and record them all myself, in fact; to me, they are some of the most beautiful music in all the chant repertoire. It really is worth clicking to the Anonymous 4 site to listen to their clips, though. Always worth listening to them sing, no matter how short or long the clips; they always produce such beautiful stuff.

In the Google book, A Dictionary of Hymnology, there is this note about this Sequence:
Rex omnipotens die hodierna. Hermannus Contractus (?). [Ascension.] This is found in a MS. in the Bodleian (Bodl. 775 f. 145), written c. 1000, as a Sequence "on the Ascension of the Lord," and in another Ms., in the same Library, of circa 1070 (Douce, 222, f. 101); in a Winchester book of the 11th cent, now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (No. 473); in a Ms. of the 11th cent. (Harl. 2961 f. 254), and another of the 11th or 12th cent. (Reg. 8 C. xiii. f. 22). both in the British Museum, &c. Among Missals it is found in an early 14th cent. Paris and a 14th cent. Sens in the British Museum; in a Sarum, c. 1370, a Hereford, c. 1370, and a York, c. 1390, all now in the Bodleian: in the St. Andrew's, and various French Missals, its use being uniformly for the Ascension. The printed text is also in Neale's Sequentiae, 1852, p. 58; Daniel, v. p. 66, and Kehrein, No. 116 (see also p. 967, ii.). Tr. as:—

1. Lord of all power and might, Mankind redeemed, Ac. By C. S. Calverley, In the 1871 ed. of the Hymnary, No. 305, and in his Literary Remains, 1886.

2. To the throne He left, victorious. By E. H. Plomptre, made for and pub. in the Hymnary, 1872, No. 305. in the place of the above No. 1.

3. The almighty King, victorious, on this day. By C. B. Pearson, In the Sarum Missal in English, 1868, and his Sequences from the Sarum Missal, 1871.

So you can see why Anonymous 4 included on their CD "1000: A Mass for the End of Time" - it was written, it seems, about the year 1000.

Here's a post on the Ascension Office (and actually, here's another!), and here's one on the mass chants for the day.

Here's one video that's appropriate for the day, even though it's not of the Sequence: Finzi's "God Is Gone Up With a Shout," sung by the Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa Choir of Men and Boys. The text is from Psalm 47, from what I can recall:

This is an icon of the "The Anastasis and the Ascension" at St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, from, apparently, the 13th Century:

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