Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three Hymns for the Transition



In hymnody as in iconography, Sts. Peter and Paul usually appear together. This is true of the three hymns provided below for use in the papal transition and/or to honor the Petrine ministry of Pope Benedict.

The first two are my translations of office hymns from the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Both may be sung to any Long Meter or iambic 8.8.8.8. melody.

Aurea luce, from the 8th or 9th century, calls St. Peter the "janitor"--the keeper of the keys--and St. Paul is as always the teacher of the whole world. The hymn plays continually upon the idea of doubling. These two great saints are both like, and equal, and yet unlike. They are equal in dignity, irreducible to one another, and always "at work" together for the good of the Church.

O light of dawn, O rosy glow,
O Light from Light, all ages show
Your beauty, and the martyrs fame,
That gain us pardon from our blame.

The heavens' porter, and earth’s sage,
The world’s bright lights who judge the age.
One wins by cross, and one by sword,
And life on high is their reward.

These are your princes, happy Rome!
Their precious blood clothes you, their home.
We praise not you, but praise their worth,
Beyond all beauty of the earth.

One love, one faith, twin olive trees,
One great strong hope filled both of these.
Full fonts, in your matched charity,
Pray that we may in heaven be.

Give glory to the Trinity
And honor to the Unity,
And joy and pow’r, for their reign stays
Today and through all endless days.

Apostolorum passio is usually attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan, though we are not entirely sure that he wrote it. It is certainly a rich, theologically dense poem. Like Aurea luce above, it attributes the dignity of Rome to these two saints, pre-eminently in their martyrs' blood.

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.

And last let me offer a hymn published by CanticaNOVA Publications and printed here with their kind permission to be used by anyone during this special time of papal transition. It was sung as below at the CMAA Colloquium this past year on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and this setting may be found on page 151 of the Colloquium music packet. The outstanding organist is Jonathan Ryan.


The Son of Man has come to save
The lost and dark of mind.
All men and women bound in chains
In Him their freedom find.

In Him the blind shall come to see,
The deaf shall understand,
For Jesus guides the erring soul
With His redeeming hand.

So Peter learned to call Him Christ,
And Paul to call Him Lord;
So Peter died upon a cross,
And Paul beneath a sword.

And on their martyrs’ witness grows
The Church of endless days.
Its rock no more denies the Lord
Its foe now leads His praise.

The Son of Man has come to serve
To seek and save the lost.
Blest be the Lord whose saints reveal
The triumph of His Cross.

 Copyright © 2005 CanticaNOVA Publications. Duplication restricted.