30 November 2007

Advent Hymn

"One generation shall proclaim Your works to another." And so the hymns and songs of Christians who have long since gone to their eternal rest, continue to live on in the Church and to bring blessing to new generations. There are so many beautiful hymns to welcome the growing Advent light, but one that I've become especially enamored of in recent years is this ancient office hymn: Conditor Alme Siderum. In some Lutheran orders it was sung and prayed daily at Vespers during the days of Advent. Its tune is as peaceful as its words:

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people's everlasting Light:
O Christ, Redeemer, save us all
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the healing full of grace
To cure and save our ruined race.

Thou cam'st the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to eventide,
The spotless Victim all divine
Proceeding from a virgin shrine.

At whose dread name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou whose coming is with dread
To judge the living and the dead,
Preserve us from the ancient foe
While still we wander here below.

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might and glory be
From age to age eternally.
(LSB 351)

P.S. It is sad to note, though, that the words of verse three have not been fairly translated. The Latin (from the Lutheran Magdeburg Book of 1613): Vergente mundi vespere / Ceu Sponsus ex cubuiculo / egressus escastissima / De Matris almae clausula. Thus, confessing the closed womb birth. The Lutheran Magdeburg Book of 1613 has the hymn provided for Vespers in this form and with a series of Scriptures listed in the column. When you get to "De Matris almae clausua" we find Ezekiel 44:2. Fancy that! Back to the old Lex Orandi observation - even though confessed in FC SD VII:100, what is not prayed and sung, does not maintain itself in the people's faith.


Christine said...

what is not prayed and sung, does not maintain itself in the people's faith.

Yes indeed. A rather ironic observation of why the difference in Catholic/Orthodox/Lutheran theology as regards the Communion of Saints.


William Weedon said...

Not ironic at all! :) It's just a matter of realizing that the liturgy (including hymnody) is the PEOPLE'S prayed confession and tends to stick closer to them than the Symbolical book are capable of doing on their own.

I was curious if the Western Rite Orthodox had that verse fixed, but note that the St. Ambrose Hymnal provides essentially the same translation (based on Neale's). Nor does the Roman Catholic hymnal *Worship* (#368) do it justice. You know, I think we just need to go back to singing it in Latin! ;)

wm cwirla said...

Latin is always best for singing.

Christine said...

There are so many beautiful hymns to welcome the growing Advent light,

How very true. Because of my parents' faithfulness in keeping the beautiful traditions of Advent it is something I look forward to every year. While the secular world jumps from summer to "halloween" to the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy I pull out the beautiful Advent hymns and play them at home throughout the season.

Although I live in suburban Cleveland, in Cleveland "proper" there are several ethnic stores that cater to the various nationalities which are still prominent here. One such store, a German import vendor, has a beautiful selection of Advent/Christmas hymns recorded in both Lutheran and Catholic Churches in Germany, so Wachet Auf will be ringing out in my house very shortly, along with Vom Himmel Hoch (surely one of Luther's finest) and many others.

I am so grateful that here in America we have gotten away from much of the post-Reformation squabble that existed in Europe even down to my parents' day. We have a German cultural organization in greater Cleveland at which Lutheran/Catholic Swabians, Bavarians, and many others gather. The blessing before meals is always offered by a German-speaking Lutheran (LCMS) pastor and a German-speaking Catholic priest.

Oh, and then, of course -- there's my CD of Gregorian chant for the Christmas cycle

The other nationalities would have similar stories.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

A quick look at a few office books produced the following comparisons.

In the Anglican Breviary, the 3rd stanza reads:
Thou camest, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
As drew the world to evening tide,
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

The Divine Office (in 3 volumes, Latin and English, the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1963:

English (prose): You went forth as a sinless victim from Mary's sacred womb to die on the Cross to atone for the sins of all mankind.

Latin: Commune qui mundi nefas
Ut expiares, ad crucem
E Virginis sacrario
Intacta prodis victima.

Pr. Lehmann said...

What do you make of the fact that Mary and Joseph offer the sacrifice required when a son opens the womb?

William Weedon said...

Same thing I make of Mary offering a sacrifice for her purification; or our Lord accepting a sinner's baptism from John's hands. See Luther's sermon on the topic in the third volume of the House Postils.

Past Elder said...

In the Roman prayer books I have from before the Revolution, the hymn is given as "Creator alme siderum", not Conditor.

Conditor in Roman mythology (the mythology of the Empire as distinct from that of the Church) was one of twelve gods who assisted Ceres with farming, specifically regarding storage. Maybe that's behind the change.

The third verse is exactly as Deacon gives it in Latin, with the same English as he found in the Anglican source. My Collegeville antecendents I think rendered it a little closer and better.

Stollen has appeared on the shelves, so we will kick off Advent with a little advance "guadete" on the first Sunday!

Past Elder said...

Man. Gaudete. Is it early or what?