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Breviary Hymn:

Æterna Christi munera

by Rev. Matthew Britt, OSB
Saint Martin's Abbey, Lacey WA

This article comes from the book, The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal, published in 1924 by Benziger Brothers, Printers to the Holy Apostolic See.

Icons of Apostles and Evangelists

Breviary Hymn for Common of Apostles and Evangelists

1 ÆTERNA Christi munera,
Apostolorum gloriam,
Palmas et hymnos debitos
Lætis canamus mentibus.

2 Ecclesiarum Principes,
Belli triumphales duces
Cælestis aulæ milites,
Et vera mundi lumina.

3 Devota sanctorum fides,
Invicta spes credentium,
Perfecta Christi caritas
Mundi tyrannum conterit.

4 In his Paterna gloria,
In his triumphat Filius,
In his voluntas Spiritus,
Cœlum repletur gaudio.

5 Patri, simulque Filio,
Tibique sancte Spiritus,
Sicut fuit, sit jugiter
Sæclum per omne gloria.

TH'eternal gifts of Christ the King,
Th'Apostles' glory, let us sing;
And all with hearts of gladness raise
Due hymns of thankful love and praise.

For they the Church's Princes are.
Triumphant leaders in the war,
The heav'nly King's own warrior band,
True lights to lighten every land.

Theirs was the steadfast faith of Saints,
The hope that never yields nor faints,
The love of Christ in perfect glow,
That lay the prince of this world low.

In them the Father's glory shone,
In them the Spirit's will was done,
The Son Himself exults in them;
Joy fills the new Jerusalem.

Praise to the Father, with the Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One;
As ever was in ages past,
And so shall be while ages last.

AUTHOR: Saint Ambrose (340-397)

METER: Iambic dimeter ( / = accent)

x / x / x / x /
x / x / x / x /
x / x / x / x /
x / x / x / x /

TRANSLATION based on John Mason Neale.
There are about thirteen translations.

LITURGICAL USE: Hymn for Matins on feasts of the Apostles and Evangelists. This hymn was originally written for the feasts of Martyrs. In it complete form it contained eight stanzas. The hymn Christum profusum sangiunem, for Martyrs in Paschaltide, is a part of the full Æterna Christ munera. The above hymn consist of stanzas 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the original.

Notes on each verse:

  1. "Let us sing with joyful hearts songs of triumph and becoming hymns, let us sing the glory of the Apostles, and the eternal gifts of Christ." The construction in this stanza is unusual. Canamus is the predicate of the whole stanza.
    Palmas: fig., victories; here, hymns of victory.
  2. "They are the princes of the Church, the triumphant leaders of the war, the soldiers of the heavenly court, and the true lights of the world."
  3. "The steadfast faith of the Saints, the unyielding hope of believers, the perfect charity of Christ trample under foot the tyrants of the world."
    Tryannum, the devil.
  4. "In them triumphs the glory of the Father; in them triumphs the Son; in them the will of the Holy Spirit is accomplished, and heaven is filled with joy."

Article compiled 18 July 2017

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