Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Medieval Elevation Prayer for Corpus Christi

A couple of years ago, a couple who are my friends gave me a lovely gift, a page of a thirteenth-century devotional manuscript. I would paleographically date it to the late 1220s or early 1230s, and assign it to the Paris book trade. My friend’s wife, a professional art historian, agreed with the date and place, noting the “spiky ivy” on the first page, which is typically mid-thirteen-century French. It was obviously made for a very wealthy patron, as is shown by the large margins, pen-scrolls, and gold leaf. That the patron was a layman is obvious from the devotional use (at the elevation at Mass) and the easily memorized rhyming verses. Versions of this prayer appear in twelfth-century English manuscripts, so it may originally be English.

As this is an elevation prayer, and it seems very suitable to make it available on Corpus Christi, whether it be celebrated tomorrow or on Sunday, as is the case in many places.

Here is my transcription of the prayer, along with the original on the right:

In elevatione corporis Christi.

Salve, sancta caro Dei,
per quem salvi fiunt rei;
servos tuos redemísti,
dum in cruce pependísti

Unda que de te manavit,
a peccato nos mundavit,
qui patravit primus homo,
inobediens de pomo.

Sancta caro tu me munda,
sanguinis benigne unda
lava me ab omni sorde,
et ab infernali morte.

Per tuam benignitatem,
presta michi sanitatem,
et per tuam sanctam pacem,
da michi prosperitatem.

Frange meos inimicos,
et fac eos mi amicos.
et superbiam eorum
destrue rex angelorum.

Tu qui es salútis portus,
in exitu mee mortis
líbera me, Deus fortis,
a leone rugiente
et a dracone furiente;
da michi sedem justorum,
qui vivis et regnas Deus
per omnia sec’la seculorum.

And here is a very inelegant translation of the prayer:

 At the elevation of the Body of Christi.

Hail, holy flesh of God,
through which the guilty are saved;
you redeemed your servants
while you hung on the cross.

The wave that flowed from you
cleansed us from that sin,
which the first man finished,
disobeying with the apple.

You, Holy Flesh, cleanse me,
kindly, with a wave of blood,
wash me from all stain
and from eternal death.

Through your kindness,
grant me healing,
and through your holy peace,
grant me good fortune.

Humble my enemies
and make them my friends,
and their pride,
let the King of Angels destroy.

You, who are the harbor of salvation,
at the time of my death
free me, Mighty God,
from the roaring lion
and the furious dragon;
give me a seat among the just,
you who live and reign
through all the ages of ages.

I have not tried to render the English translation into rhyming “long-meter,” but I urge our readers to give it a try.

A joyful feast day to you all!

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