Saturday, June 29, 2024

The Vesper Hymn of Ss Peter and Paul

As I have noted on other occasions, the specific Use of the Divine Office originally created for the chapel of the Papal court, the ancestor of the Breviary of St Pius V, was very conservative in its use of hymns. A good example of this may be seen in the feasts of the Apostles; although many proper hymns were composed for the various Apostles in the Middle Ages, the only one adopted into the Roman Office is this one for Ss Peter and Paul. Aurea luce, known since the revision of Pope Urban VIII as Decora lux aeternitatis, is traditionally ascribed to a fictitious first wife of Boethius named Elpis; in reality, it is the work of an unknown writer of the Carolingian era.

Aurea luce et decóre róseo
Lux lucis, omne perfudisti sáeculum:
Décorans caelos ínclyto martyrio
Hac sacra die, quae dat reis veniam.

(Light of light, Thou hast suffused all the world with golden light and rosy beauty, adorning the heavens with a famous martyrdom on this holy day, that gives pardon to the guilty.)

Jánitor caeli, Doctor orbis páriter,
Júdices saecli, vera mundi lúmina:
Per crucem alter, alter ense triumphans,
Vitae senátum laureáti póssident.

(The door-keeper of heaven, and likewise the teacher of the world, the judges of the age, the true lights of the world, triumphing, the one by the cross, the other by the sword, are crowned and take possession of the assembly of life.)

O felix Roma, quae tantórum Príncipum
Es purpuráta pretióso sánguine!
Non laude tua, sed ipsórum méritis
Excellis omnem mundi pulchritúdinem.

(O happy Rome, that art adorned with the precious blood of such great Princes, not by thy own praise, but by their merits dost thou excel the beauty of all (the rest of) the world. – This stanza is not part of the original text, but was added to it by the Breviary reform of St Pius V.)

lívae binae pietátis únicae,
Fide devótos, spe robustos máxime,
Fonte replétos caritátis géminae
Post mortem carnis impetráte vívere.

(O ye twin olive trees of one devotion, obtain life after the death of the flesh for those devout in faith, most mighty in hope, filled from the double font of charity. – This stanza is part of the original, but dropped out of use long before the Tridentine reform; it has been restored in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours. The use of the two olive trees as symbols of the two Apostolic founders of the Roman church comes from the fourth chapter of the Prophet Zachariah.)
The Prophet Zachariah, by Michelangelo, depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-12).
Sit Trinitáti sempiterna gloria,
Honor, potestas atque jubilatio,
In unitáte, cui manet imperium,
Ex tunc et modo, per aeterna sæcula. Amen.

(To the Trinity be everlasting glory, honor, might, and rejoicing, in that unity that ever hath rule from then and now, through all ages. Amen.)

Traditionally, this hymn in its various versions was sung at both Vespers of Ss Peter and Paul. In the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, it is sung only at First Vespers, but in the original version, with the added stanza O felix Roma, and the restored fourth stanza Olivae binae. (This is the text used in the recording above.) At Second Vespers, the hymn by Paulinus of Aquileia, ca. 800 AD, which provided the stanza O Roma felix, is now sung.

The two stanzas of the traditional hymn of Lauds were originally also part of Aurea luce, placed between Janitor caeli and Olivae binae; the doxology Sit Trinitati is repeated at the end.
Jam, bone pastor, Petre, clemens accipe
Vota precantum, et peccati vincula
Resolve tibi potestate tradita,
Qua cunctis caelum verbo claudis, aperis.

(Now, good shepherd, Peter, mercifully receive the prayers of those who beseech thee, and by he power given to thee, release the bonds of sin, who by thy word open or close heaven to all.)

Doctor egregie, Paule, mores instrue
Et mente polum nos transferre satage,
Donec perfectum largiatur plenius
Evacuato, quod ex parte gerimus.

(Renowned Doctor, o Paul, instruct our manners, and work greatly to bring us in mind to heaven, until that which is perfect be bestowed more fully, and what we do imperfectly annulled.)

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