Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27: St. John Evangelist

Here's Abelard's Hymn to St. John Evangelist:
Coelo celsius
Volans aquila
Ad Dominici
Sinus abdita
Nidi contulit

Solis intunes
Illic radios
Summo iubare
Visum reficit
Pascit oculus

Ex substantia
Solis ignea
Calor prodiens
Et lux genita
Praebet maxima

Translated by Peter Levi this way:

Heavenlier than heaven
The eagle flying
Even to the musteries
of the Lord’s breast
Has made a dwelling-place
and built his nest.

He sees the shining
of the sun there
in supreme light
shining most blest,
and feeds his eyes
his sight refreshed.

Out of the substance
of sunfire
Heat that proceeds
and generated light
offers absolute
of delight.

I have no tune for this, but the meter is 5 5 5 5 5 5 (= 10 10 10) - so any melody with that rhythm will do. You could sing it, for instance, to Vaughan Williams' Sine Nomine, or to Engleberg - if you add some alleluias at the end of each stanza. Or create your own melody; that's even more fun. I think, though, I'll be doing some research about Abelard and his time period, to see what the tune might have actually sounded like.

Alternatively, sing the hymns for Apostles and Evangelists today.

The Gospel for Christmas Day, and for the First Sunday of Christmas, seems appropriate here (although it's actually not a reading for St. John):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

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