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Musical Musings: Advent

Chant Hymns of Advent

by Gary D. Penkala

One of the few places that strophic hymns occur in the Roman Rite is at the beginning of each hour in the Liturgy of the Hours. There are still official Latin hymns set out in the Editio typica altera of the Officium divinum (Divine Office), the Liturgy of the Hours according to the Roman Rite, published in 1985. They are as follows:

Evening Prayer

  • through December 16   Conditor alme siderum
    This is an anonymous text from the 7th century (trans- "Creator of the stars of night") Under Pope Urban VIII, the Roman Breviary was revised in 1632, and this hymn was greatly altered, becoming Creator alme siderum. The hymn in the Liber usualis is Creator alme siderum, which maintains classic Latin poetry meters. The text translates, "Bright builder of the heavenly poles."
  • December 17 - 23   Verbum salutis omnium
    A hymn from around the 10th century.

Night Prayer

  • through December 16   Te lucis ante terminum
    An Ambrosian hymn from the 7th century, translating, "To Thee, before the close of day." The hymn in the Liber usualis is also Te lucis ante terminum, but with different verses 2-4.
  • December 17 - 23   Christe qui splendor
    "Christ, who art the light and day" is a hymn from the 8th century, sometimes attributed to Venerable Bede.

Office of Readings

  • through December 16   Verbum supernum prodiens
    The text reads, "Celestial Word, to this our earth sent down from God," and dates from the 6th or 7th century. It can be found in monastic breviaries of the 10th century.
  • December 17 - 23   Veni redemptor gentium
    Another text by Saint Ambrose. This hymn was quite popular in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Martin Luther translated it into German; it became: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, and it is found in many modern hymnals as the Advent hymn, "Savior of the Nations, Come." In the 20th century, Dom Paul Benoit used the melody as the basis for his popular hymn, "Where Charity and Love Prevail.".

Morning Prayer

  • through December 16   Vox clara ecce intonat
    A 6th century hymn, translating, "A thrilling voice from Jordan rings." The hymn in the Roman Breviary (1963) is En clara vox redarguit, owing to the revisions made by Pope Urban VIII in 1632.
  • December 17 - 23   Magnis prophetæ vocibus

Daytime Prayer

  • Mid-morning
    • through December 16   Nunc Sancte nobis Spiritus
      This hymn by Saint Ambrose is appropriate for Mid-morning prayer, recalling the hour of the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:15). Translation: "Come, Holy Ghost, who ever One."
    • December 17 - 23   Certum tenentes ordinem
      A hymn from before the 6th century.
  • Midday
    • through December 16   Rector potens verax Deus
      "O God of truth, O Lord of might" was written by Saint Ambrose in the 4th century.
    • December 17 - 23   Dicamus laudes Domino
      A hymn from before the 6th century.
  • Mid-afternoon
    • through December 16   Rerum Deus tenax vigor
      Also written by Saint Ambrose, "O God, creation's secret force" is sung at Mid-afternoon Prayer, the time of Jesus' death on the Cross.
    • December 17 - 23   Ternis horarum terminis
      A hymn from before the 6th century.

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