Sunday, 21 July 2013

Latin Prayer of the Week: O Salutaris Hostia

For this week's offering I want to cheat slightly, and point you an excellent parsing of two Eucharistic hymns by St Thomas Aquinas over at Monsignor Pope's blog.

Monsignor Pope on Benediction hymns

Monsignor Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered last week a nice post providing a detailed analysis of two hymns, both by St Thomas Aquinas, often used at Benediction, namely O Salutaris Hostia, and Tantum Ergo.

Accordingly, I want to give you a bit of a taster for Monsignor Pope's post and provide some supplementary comments here, on the first one, O Salutaris, but do go take a look at his notes on both.  He provides a general overview, and line by line translation, of both hymns on the main page of his blog, and then offers an attachment with a more detailed word by word analysis of the Latin.

O Saving Victim

O Salutaris Hostia (Saving Victim) is actually the last two verse of a hymn St Thomas composed for Lauds of Corpus Christi.  It is one of five Eucharistic Hymns commissioned from him by  Pope Urban IV (1261-1264) when he instituted the feast in 1264.

Monsignor Pope comments that:

"...The meter is Iambic Dimeter, accentual with alternating rhyme. This hymn was said to so please even the hostile Rousseau that he would have given all his poetry to be its author."

Here is the Latin text of the hymn:

Quae caeli pandis ostium.
Bella premunt hostilia;
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino,
Nobis donet in patria.

Monsignor Pope's literal version goes as follows:

O saving Victim 
who openeth the gates of heaven 
hostile wars press 
give strength, bear aid

My literal translation of the second verse is:

To the One and Three(fold) Lord,
May there be everlasting/eternal glory;
Who life without end
To us may he give in the fatherland.

For those interested in the Latin, do go and read through his word by word parsing of the text. There are also some useful discussion of translation issues in the comments on the post over there.

Monsignor Pope also offers a poetic version:

O saving Victim opening wide
the gate of heaven to all below
our foes press on from every side
thine aid supply, thy strength bestow.

The Caswell translation of the hymn from which this comes I think, offers this as the second verse:

To Thy great name be endless praise
Immortal Godhead, One in Three;
Oh, grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with Thee.

Monsignor Pope's blog offers a video of the Mozart setting of the hymn.  Here is the simple Gregorian chant version.

And since its World Youth Day(s) time again,  you might enjoy this Russian setting of the hymn from Juventutem (the traditional chapter of WYD) 2011.


David Birch said...

Hello Kate, your inclusion of 'Tantum ergo Sacramentum...' as the Latin prayer of the week put me in mind of Ronald Knox's comments in his Foreword to Lowe's book "Church Latin for Beginners"(1923) when he was writing about the easy familiarity with which we sometimes assume we understand the Latin, simply because we understand the often quirky parallel English translations of it in our Missals and prayer books. He wrote: 'A boy in Latin class was exhibiting a mulish ignorance as to the meaning of the word 'tantus', and the class master, with that fatal tendency we all have to adopt the method of cross-examination was trying to get the right meaning out of him. At last in despair he suggested :"Well, you have met the words 'Tantum ergo Sacramentum' before; at least you know what THAT means." At which a great light dawned upon the boy, and he said: "Oh, yes, sir, I know THAT: it means "Down in adoration falling."
Of course, Knox was writing at a time when he was able to refer to the often 'Sisyphean labours of those who teach Latin in Catholic schools.' Remember them? Pax et Bonum, David

Antonia Romanesca said...

Thanks so much for this Kate - just beautiful and very inspiriting - quite up to your usual standard! [Antonia R.]