Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Oldie-but-Goodie

St. Ambrose is the universally acknowledged author of 4 hymns, three of which are attested to in the writings of St. Augustine. Many scholars believe St. Ambrose to be the author of another dozen hymns that are still known. In homage to his abilities, holiness, and authority, many hymns were attributed to him, but are unlikely to be his.  An entire meter, now known as Long Meter ( and in times past called "church meter," was known in times before that as Ambrosian meter.

St. Ambrose's hymns are characterized by theological density, bold use of images, and scriptural allusions. I believe that this is an example worth emulating.

This is my translation of Apostolorum Passio, for the upcoming feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It may be sung to the chant tune of the Latin text, or to any number of familiar chant tunes such as Jesu Dulcis Memoria. Among the many LM modern hymn tunes to which it might be sung, I especially enjoy Deo Gratias.

Blest day by suff’ring sanctified:
Christ’s chosen high apostles died.
Today St. Peter wins renown.
Today St. Paul accepts the crown.

Together, equally, they bled:
Together: the victorious dead.
They followed God and sacrificed
And now their faith is crowned by Christ.

St. Peter holds the highest place,
Yet Paul is not the less by grace.
An equal faith was giv’n to Paul:
The chosen vessel of God’s call.

St. Peter, downward crucified—
To honor God in how he died—
Securely tied, he sees unfold
The death his Shepherd once foretold.

On such foundations Rome may claim
The highest service of God’s name.
His noble blood has dignified
The city where this prophet died.

Let all the world, then, run to Rome.
Let families of nations come!
The head of nations teaches there,
Beside the nations’ teacher's chair.

O Lord, we ask that we may be
In their exalted company,
And with our princes sing Your praise
Forever, to unending days.