Saturday, February 27, 2010

When the Patriarch was returning (Hoste dum victu triumphans)

Fr. John Hunwicke, of Oxford, has mentioned a very beautiful Hymn, one of the favorites at St. Clements Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, called "When the Patriarch was returning". It is a translation, apparently, of a breviary hymn sung at the Vigil of the Octave of Corpus Christi, at the Abbey of Cluny, in France. It was translated into English by Fr. E. Caswall, an Anglican priest contemporary of John Henry Newman, who also converted to Catholicism in the mid 19th Century. Fr. Caswall translated a great number of such hymns from Latin into English. Many find this to be one of his best.

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

The words are from the NLM site, which also has an embedded rendition sung by the congregation at St. Clements. The author of the particular article at NLM is Michael E. Lawrence, who in his introduction, has the following remark:
Save for the occasional Pange lingua or O Salutaris, most Eucharistic hymns that come to my mind which enjoy widespread popularity seem to epitomize either the 1940's or the 1970's. Alas, even the aforementioned Latin hymns can be given a kind of saccharine, "Sweet and Low" sort of flavor, depending upon the rendition.
I love Aquinas's Pange lingua, not to mention his Lauda Sion, but truer words were never spoken about the "rendition", the manner in which they are sung. These are not Broadway solo bits, and no Hymn sung during the Liturgy ought to be so introspective or self-oriented that it obscures the sense of wonder and awe that have inspired the Church (and her saints) to pen these wonderful anthems. There are too many people directing choirs who remember -- and then only dimly -- a poorly catechized sense of the place of these hymns. No wonder Catholic (men) don't sing!

Original Latin

Hoste dum victo triumphans
Abraham revertitur,
Obvius fit magnus illi
Rex Salem Melchisedech,
Vina qui tamquam sacerdos
Atque panem protulit.

Quam vetus signabat umbra,
Clara lucet veritas ;
Pontifex novus secundum
Ordinem, Melchisedech,
Pane, sub vinoque corpus
Dat suum cum sanguine.

Quo creata cuncta verbo
Mira fit mutatio:
Panis in carnem, merumque
In cruorem vertitur
Deficit sen[s]us, sed alta
Roborat mentem fides.

Qui semel Patri cruentam
Obtulit se victimam;
Singulis idem diebus,
Per ministrorum manus,
Rite nostris incruentus
Se sub aris immolat.

Ipsa quin astans sacratis
Sancta plebs altaribus,
Maximo Christum Parenti
Seque cum Christo litat
Carne posthac quam litavit
Et cruore pascitur.

Summa laus Deo Parenti
Qui creavit omnia;
Summa sit Nato redemit
Qui suo nos sanguine ;
Flamini par, cujus almo
Confovemur halitu.

Attribution (and comment by "Walter" for the Latin).

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