Monday, December 04, 2006
CONDITOR alme siderum
CONDITOR alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.
Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium,
Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
Virginis matris clausula.
Cujus forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
nutu fatentur subdita.
At whose dread Name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
and things celestial Thee shall own,
and things terrestrial Lord alone.
Te deprecamur hagie,
Venture judex saeculi,
Conserva nos in tempore
Hostis a telo perfidi.
CREATOR of the stars of night,
Your people's everlasting light,
Jesus, Redeemer of us all,
We pray you hear us when we call.
In sorrow that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
You came, O Savior, to set free
Your own in glorious liberty.
Come, Sun and Savior, to embrace,
Our gloomy world, its weary race,
As groom to bride, as bride to groom:
The wedding chamber, Mary's tomb.
At your Great Name, O Jesus, now
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heav'n, shall call you Lord.
"FOR many, Advent would not be Advent if introduced by any other hymn. It is well-nigh impossible for even the best of poets to find a formula that really corresponds to the first line of the Latin text. The Latin "sidus" ["siderum"] means more than "star." It includes the stars, of course, but also sun and moon and planets and all the heavenly constel¬lations and comets and meteors. These are the cosmic elements that will appear in later stanzas of the hymn. For the ancients, these mysterious heavenly bodies that moved about and that had their cycles of waxing and waning and that in some unfathomable way could affect the course of human destiny-these heavenly bodies were perhaps living beings.
"The opening line of this Advent hymn should make us think of the great array of all the powerful cosmic bodies that figure in those eschatological texts of scripture where the whole of the created universe responds to the presence of its God. The point of reference is not some lovely nightfall scene studded with gently glimmering stars, but rather that Great Day when "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29). Indeed, this Advent hymn, if we really look at it, is something of a "Dies irae" in a less strident mode.
"In stanza three, the world's evening draws to a close. We recognize in the last three lines of this stanza the allusion to verse six of Psalm 19, the verse that occurs so frequently in the Christmastide cycle: "And he, as a bridegroom coming forth from the bridal chamber, rejoices as a giant to run his course." So just when the world seems doomed to certain extinction, the Sun comes forth in a blaze of light and begins its paschal journey across the whole of human life and experience. This imagery is especially appropriate towards the beginning of December and the first Sunday of Advent, when nights are growing progressively longer and longer, until, upon the arrival of the winter solstice just before Christmas, the inexorable onslaught of darkness is reversed with the birth of Christ, the Sun of Justice, who now begins to run his course over the whole of our existence."
Posted by Rmj at 9:00 AM