06 December 2010

Working on a Hymn Study

for Issues, Etc. on "Creator of the Stars of Night."  This hymn was HUGE in the Advent hymnody of the Lutheran Church in the 16th century.  They didn't translate it into German, just kept singing it in Latin (the original, mind you, not the way it was almost unrecognizably altered in the breviary revision under Urban VIII in 1632).  Lossius' Psalmodia surrounds the piece with copious notes, and I found his comments on the second stanza interesting.  Here's the original:

Qui condolens interitu
Mortis perire seculum,
Salvare mundum natus es,
Ferens reis solatium.

LSB, largely following Neale, renders this as:

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.

More literally, though (remembering the Latin is a challenge for me - if I get it wrong, please correct!):

Who suffering greatly with the destruction
death wasted upon the universe,
was born to save the world,
bringing solace to the guilty.

Regarding this stanza, Lossius notes:  

Here this verse teaches concerning the causes of the mission of the Son of God.  And these are of three sorts.  First, the magnitude of the divine wrath against sin, which is not possible for any creature to placate.  Therefore the decree of redemption for the Son of God is made.  Second is the immense mercy of the Eternal Father in permitting His Son to become man, not wishing all to perish.  Third is that the same Son of God works for love of us, intercedes against the great and horrific wrath of God, and afterwards submits to punishment for us and is perpetually the propitiator. 

It strikes me how he holds together a very lively sense of divine wrath and yet can speak precisely "of the immense mercy of the Father" in allowing the Son to become man so that all do not perish.  Lots more work to do on it, and tomorrow Pr. Curtis has promised to help me with some of the trickier Latin notes.  What an absolutely lovely hymn, though.  Pr. Roemke just posted this link to it up on his Facebook page:

And here Pr. Mayes sings the English for you.  


Larry Luder said...

I wrote this in my daily joural last night: Advent hymns are such a blessing. We sang Creator of the Stars of Night. It is among the greatest Advent hymns ever written. I especially enjoy listerning to Conditor Alme Siderum sung in Latin and other ancient forms in the liturgia horarum. Last year on your blog we shared our of love for this timeless Advent Hymn. Joy.

William Weedon said...

Amen, Larry! I told Jeff and Todd that they really needed to do a show on this hymn, because it is not currently well known among Lutherans, but it sure as shootin used to be equal to "Savior of the Nations" in popularity. Time to get it back!

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Lossius' notes are great! Can't wait for the interview.

Herberger quotes the first stanza in TGWoG 1:6, so on a hunch I looked up his German gloss to see if it was metrical. It was not. But what is telling is that, just before that, a German metrical version of "Christe, qui lux es et dies" is given. I take that as confirmation of your assertion that they simply preferred to continue singing the Latin; or perhaps that, at least to Herberger's knowledge, there was no satisfactory German metrical version in use. However, as Koch makes clear, several German versions had been made before 1600, some of which which certainly must have been known:

"O Heilger Schöpfer aller Sterne" (1460).
"O Heilger Schöpfer aller Stern" (T. Müntzer - 1524). Obviously they couldn't sing something by the infamous Müntzer!
"O Herre Gott in Ewigkeit" (Augsburg Hymnal, 1533).
"Welt Schöpfer, Herr Gott, Jesu Christ" (C. Hueber, 1559) -- This version was included in the Nürnberg hymnals.
"Allmächtiger Schöpfer Herre Gott" (Anon.?)
"O Herre Gott, Schöpfer aller Stern" (Spangenberg, 1568).
and the interestingly titled,
"Gottes Sohn vom Himmelreich (Lobwasser, 1578) -- of course, there was a general resistance to Lobwasser in Lutheran circles.


William Weedon said...


I noted he attributed it to Ambrose. I think that was sort of a common convention, but most date it several centuries later. Thoughts?

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

Right, the notion was common convention (e.g., the ascription in RC _Hymni et Collectae…_, Calenius & Quentel, 1585). I think: even if it was not by Ambrose, it was not ascribed to him without reason. The form is essentially his, and the sentiment is his. So, being such a pious imitation of Ambrose, it deserves a pious ascription to Ambrose. :)

Past Elder said...

That's exactly how the historical critical liturgical movement types taught me that Matthew is not by Matthew, Mark is not by Mark usw. Authorship refers to the thoughts; the writer is simply whoever wrote it down, literally, which now is usually the same person but in the ancient world wasn't.

I'm about to do something I rarely do -- say something good about Vatican II. It did restore the original over Urban's revisionist hack job which had persisted since his time.

But this magnificent composition is from the 7th century, and stands entirely on its own excellence and merit. It needs no pious ascriptions and has no connexion whatsobloodyever to Ambrose. (Neither does the Te Deum btw.)

In fact such ascriptions cheapen the work, and this fairy tale making serves no good purpose as it can be and is used both to credit and discredit a work -- the Bible/hymn isn't REALLY by God/Ambrose but it expresses God's/Ambrose's thoughts so it might as well be and we piously say it is.

Let alone that Ambrose is one of the principal architects of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, starting as an unordained and unbaptised provincial Imperial governor ratified as bishop by the Imperial government extending to his influence over the Emperor in creating the state Catholic Church over the catholic church in the Edict of Thessalonica with full Imperial power to suppress any opposition which it unleashed with a vengeance -- the Battle of The Frigidus, destruction of synagogues, the destruction of the Serapeum, of the Temple of Vesta, even the Olympic Games! Not to mention refusing to hold mass until no reparations were to be made for the destruction.

Thank God for the Reformation! Even in this matter of a hymn, we don't need no Vatican II, we were singing the original hundreds of years before, just being who and what we are. So let's dust it off and sing it still, Latin and all, because we're catholic, not Catholic!

And hey, we got the Olympics back too, and now with Winter Games! No Eislaeuferin in the ancient world! Sag mir wo die Blumen sind!