Sunday, 5 May 2013

Latin prayer of the week: O Angel of God

For this week's Latin prayer I've chosen the popular prayer to one's guardian angel.

It got a modern workout in a setting by Enrico Morricone in the film The Mission (if you get in quickly, you can vote for it in ABC FM's top 100 film scores listing!).

Most people will know this in English - what what about the Latin?  Why not add a bit extra to this frequently needed prayer for help, and gain a partial indulgence in the process!

Origins of the prayer

The idea that everyone has a guardian angel is of course entirely Scriptural: in Matthew 18:10, Our Lord says, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven".  But there are numerous other references to their action on behalf of various figures in both the New and Old Testaments, and the doctrine seems to have been taken over from Jewish belief initially.

This particular prayer seems to have twelfth century origins, though who actually composed it not clear.

Here is the text as it appears in the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Ángele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
me, tibi commíssum pietáte supérna,
illúmina, custódi,
rege et gubérna.

And the translation given there:

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide.

Looking at the Latin

Here is a literal word by word translation:

Ángele (O Angel) Dei (of God),
qui (who) custos (guardian) es (you are) mei (of me),
me (me), tibi (to you) commíssum (entrusted) pietáte (loving kindness/love) supérna (heavenly),
illúmina (light), custódi (guard),
rege (rule) et gubérna (govern/direct/guide).

An alternative version goes:

Angele Dei
qui custos es mei,
Me tibi commissum pietate superna;
(Hodie (today), Hac nocte (this night) illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna.

There are various videos of the Morricone version with choir around, but being an oboeist myself, I can't help feeling this purely instrumental version is perhaps most likely to act best as an aid to prayer!

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