Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hymn to St. Anne: Nocti succedit lucifer


This is my translation of the office hymn Nocti succedit lucifer, a hymn in honor of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the patroness of Canada, as well as Detroit. The feast of St. Anne with her husband St. Joachim is celebrated on the universal calendar on July 26th.

One of the hymn's strengths is its use of the imagery of light in the first two verses. In verse 1, we move forward in time as we move through the series of celestial images: first Anna, the morning star, then Mary, the dawn, then Christ, the Sun. (The forward motion is found in the popular hymn Mary the Dawn as well.) In verse two, the images work in reverse, perhaps in order of importance for salvation: Christ the Sun, Mary the dawn, and Anna, who warms the sky to a pre-dawn red--the "rosy fingered dawn" of Homer.

The third verse's imagery is familar from the O Antiphon O radix Jesse, which draws from Isaiah 11:1, the messianic prophecy that numbers the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Where Mary the Dawn has a binary quality, this hymn is more of a waltz, in three. Working backwards from Christ, the evident Savior, we find His mother, and we study to understand who she must have been, to bear such fruit in her womb. Then we take one further step, and find her mother, not immaculately conceived, but the natural mother of the mother. Already in St. Anne, in whose womb the Immaculate Conception took place, we have reason to hope, that soon the Sun will shine.

The morning star is on the rise
And soon the dawn will fill the skies,
Foretelling of the coming Sun
Whose light will shine on everyone.

The Sun of justice, Christ, true Light,
And Mary, grace's dawning bright,
And Anna, reddening the sky,
Have caused the night of Law to fly.

O mother Anna, fruitful root,
From you came your salvation's shoot,
For you brought forth the flow'ring rod
That bore for us the Christ of God.

Christ's mother's mother, by the grace
Your daughter's birth brought to our race,
And by her merits and her prayer
May we her favors come to share.

O Jesus, Virgin-born, to You
All glory is forever due.
To Father and the Spirit, praise
Be sung through everlasting days.