Friday, August 15, 2014

A Special Hymn for the Assumption

In the Roman Rite, there are traditionally only three hymns generally used on feasts of the Virgin Mary. These are Ave, Maris Stella, which is sung at Vespers, Quem terra at Matins, and O gloriosa Domina at Lauds; the second and third of these were originally two parts of the same hymn, divided for liturgical use. Among the many other hymns composed in the Middle Ages in honor of the Virgin, a standout is O quam glorifica, an anonymous composition of the ninth century, possibly earlier, which was adopted by several churches for use on the Assumption. At Sarum, it was sung at First Vespers of the feast, while the Parisian Use placed it at Matins, and from these extended it to the Little Office of the Virgin. It was incorporated into the Latin version of the Liturgy of the Hours, although it was not assigned to the Assumption, but to Lauds of Our Lady’s Queenship on August 22, which is now the de facto octave of the Assumption. This is a piece whose complex Latin meter makes for a rather odd word order, and a prime example of a work to which translation perhaps does more than a little injustice. It is here sung by the Trappist monks of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, in a recording from 1958; the Cistercian tradition also places it at first Vespers of the feast.

O quam glorifica luce coruscas,               O with how glorious light thou shinest,
Stirpis Davidicae regia proles!                  royal offspring of David’s race!
Sublimis residens, Virgo Maria,               dwelling on high, O Virgin Mary,
Supra caeligenas aetheris omnes.             Above all the regions of heaven.

Tu cum virgineo mater honore,                Thou, chaste mother with virginal honor,
Caelorum Domino pectoris aulam            prepared in thy holy womb
Sacris visceribus casta parasti;                 a dwelling place for the Lord of heaven;
Natus hinc Deus est corpore Christus.     hence God, Christ, was born in a body.

Quem cunctus venerans orbis adorat,      Whom all the word adores in veneration,
Cui nunc rite genuflectitur omne;              before whom every knee rightfully bends,
A quo te, petimus, subveniente,                From whom we ask, as thou comest to help,
Abjectis tenebris, gaudia lucis.      the joys of light, and the casting away of darkness.

Hoc largire Pater luminis omnis,               Grant this, Father of all light,
Natum per proprium, Flamine sacro,       Through thine own Son, by the Holy Spirit,
Qui tecum nitida vivit in aethra                 who with liveth in the bright heaven,
Regnans, ac moderans saecula cuncta.     ruling and governing all the ages. Amen.

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