Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas of Christ the Savior
Its now pass half the year in sharing of the Psalms , Hymns, and Spiritual Songs that I encountered among Christians since 1969, and that has influenced me and those I’ve known. There are thousands of songs and poems, hymns and psalms, which I have not shared of the spiritual poetry from the Christian treasury. I originally intended to share only a song a week, but soon realized that was too limiting, and in turn found myself sharing several songs a week which were related in my experience and in historical fact. I intended to share the Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas in mid June in the Feast of Corpus Christi (Christ’s Body) of Eucharist Transubstantiation (thanksgiving celebration or communion or fellowship of the Lord’s Supper of His Body and Blood in the Bread and Wine), but could not . Perhaps now, in this submission, I should say a word about the Liturgical Year and Church Calendar.
As a young Christian I began to collect and read various liturgical books of Christians and Jews. These worship and prayer books along with the hymnbooks were very encouraging in daily devotions for myself as for others. I thus became aware and influenced in the spiritual journey of others, and the feasts and holy-days of the church at large. The Jewish worship of the Synagogue and Temple, going back to Abraham and Moses, David and Solomon, and Ezra and the Elders, was celebrated in the Passover, Pentecost, Rosh haShanah, Yom Kippur (Atonement), Sukkot(Tabernacles), Hanukkah, and Purim. The Christian Church of the Orthodox Eastern Rites and the Catholic Western or Roman Rite modified and added to the Jewish Feasts , adapting to Gentile local or national customs as needed. The primary Feasts following Christ’s Nativity ( the Advent, the Incarnation), the Epiphany (Manifestation and Ministry, from birth to death), Resurrection, Pentecost (the Holy Spirit), Transfiguration (the Kingdom), the Glorious Cross (His Passions and Death), and the Parousia (the 2nd Advent and Church Dedication). Added in this Church Calendar are many hundreds of other dates of recognition and remembrance of saints and events and places which were and are significant or treasured by the Church and Christians. At different times the Calendar has been revised and modified; holy-days becomes holidays, Christian Church feasts and celebrations blends with national holidays and celebrations; and examples of Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving Day; or national days modified religiously like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and such like. The cycle of the liturgical year being from December to June (Winter to Spring to Summer) then from Summer to Fall to Winter(July to December). In this regards we now come to Aquinas’ Hymns.
In the Catholic liturgical calendar, the Feast of Corpus Christi is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, “where the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day”. This feast was instituted in 1264 by Pope Urban IV. He commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose an Office for Corpus Christi, which yielded the following beautiful hymns:
Pange, Lingua, Gloriosi (Acclaim, My Tongue, This Mystery)…. stanzas five and six of this hymn have become the famous “Tantum Ergo Sancramentum,” often sung at Eucharistic benediction ceremonies.
Sacris Solemnis Juncta Sint Gaudia (Let Joys Be Joined to Solemn Feasts)
Verbum Supernum Prodiens (The Word from Heaven Now Proceeding)
Lauds, Sion, Salvotorem (Praise, O Sion, Your Redeemer)
1. Pange Lingua (Traditional English translation.)
Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
Of His flesh the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our immortal King,
Destined, for the world’s redemption,
From a noble womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
Stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Then He closed in solemn order
Wondrously His life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
First fulfills the Law’s command;
Then as Food to His (Apostles)
Gives Himself with His own hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the Bread of (Heaven)
By His word to Flesh He turns;
Wine into His Blood He changes;
What though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing,
Newer (feasts) of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns (on high),
(By) the Holy (Spir’t) proceeding
Forth from Each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
2. Lauda Sion Salvatorem (Traditional translation. This is one of the four Sequences which are alone retained in the revised Roman Missal, 1570, and later editions. It seems to have been written about 1260 for the Mass of the festival of Corpus Christi. For this festival St. Thomas, at the request of Pope Urban IV., drew up in 1263 the office in the Roman Breviary; and probably also that in the Roman Missal. In form this Sequence is an imitation of the “Laudes crucis attollamus ” .)
Sion, lift thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.
Special theme of praise is thine,
That true living Bread divine,
That life-giving flesh adored,
Which the brethren twelve received,
As most faithfully believed,
At the Supper of the Lord.
Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;
On this festival divine
Which recounts the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.
At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.
His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.
Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.
Here in outward signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:-
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine;
Yet is Christ, in either sign,
All entire confessed to be.
They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.
Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here ’tis life; and there ’tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.
Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before;
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The Signified remaining One
And the Same forevermore
Lo! upon the Altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Angels’ Bread from Paradise
Made the food of mortal man:
Children’s meat to dogs denied;
In old types foresignified;
In the manna from the skies,
In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.
Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep!
Thy true flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace:
Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the Feast of Love,
We may see Thee face to face.
3.”Adore Te Devote” (“Prostrate I Adore Thee”) by Edward Bouverie Pusey translation (1854, cited in Palmer, in London; wrongly ascribed to Emily M. P. Hickey, used in Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1870. See John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology. Cited also in H.N. Oxenham’s Manual of Devotions, 1854, without name. Also published in 1869 and 1847 and 1843-44, in “Paradise of the Christian Soul” by Horst., translated and edited by Pusey and others; as “Rhythm of St. Thomas Aquinas”.chptr 8,sect.5,p.123. There have been at least 16 significant English translations, reflecting its popularity as a prayer and hymn.)
Prostrate I adore Thee, Deity unseen,
Who Thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Tranced as it beholds Thee, shrined within the cloud.
Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern Thee fail;
Faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate’er the Son of God hath told;
What the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.
On the Cross lay hidden but thy Deity,
Here is hidden also Thy Humanity:
But in both believing and confessing, Lord,
Ask I what the dying thief of Thee implored.
Thy dread wounds, like Thomas, though I cannot see,
His be my confession, Lord and God, of Thee,
Make my faith unfeigned ever-more increase,
Give me hope unfading, love that cannot cease.
O memorial wondrous of the Lord’s own death;
Living Bread, that giveth all Thy creatures breath,
Grant my spirit ever by Thy life may live,
To my taste Thy sweetness never-failing give.
Pelican of mercy, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:
Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured
Might from all transgression have the world restored.
Jesu, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of Thee.