Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hymnus de vita æterna

When Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was asked by his erstwhile paramour Heloise, who had become Abbess of the monastery of the Paraclete, to supplement the hymns used at the Hours, he wrote a great number of hymns, including this for Saturdays at Vespers. It, and its stirring translation by J.M. Neale (which rearranges the stanzas, BTW), are together favourites of mine, particularly appropriate at Ascensiontide:

O quanta, qualia sunt illa sabbata
quæ semper celebrat superna curia.
quæ fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,
cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.

Vere Jerusalem est illa civitas,
cujus pax jugis est, summa jucunditas,
ubi non prævenit rem desiderium,
nec desiderio minus est præmium.

Quis rex, quæ curia, quale palatium,
quæ pax, quæ requies, quod illud gaudium,
hujus participes exponant gloriam,
si quantum sentiunt, possint exprimere.

Nostrum est interim mentem erigere
et totis patriam votis appetere,
et ad Jerusalem a Babylonia
post longa regredi tandem exilia.

Illic molestiis finitis omnibus
securi cantica Sion cantibimus,
et juges gratias de donis gratiæ
beata referet plebs tibi, Domine.

Illic ex sabbato succedet sabbatum,
perpes lætitia sabbatizantium,
nec ineffabiles cessabunt jubili,
quos decantabimus et nos et angeli.

Perenni Domino perpes sit gloria,
ex quo sunt, per quem sunt, in quo sunt omnia;
ex quo sunt, Pater est; per quem sunt, Filius;
in quo sunt, Patris et Filii Spiritus. Amen.


O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see!
Crowns for the valiant; to weary ones rest:
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.

What are the Monarch, his court and his throne?
What are the peace and the joy that they own?
Tell us, ye blest ones, that in it have share,
If what ye feel ye can fully declare.

Truly Jerusalem name we that shore,
'Vision of peace,' that brings joy evermore!
Wish and fulfilment can severed be ne'er,
Nor the thing prayed for come short of the prayer.

We, where no trouble distraction can bring,
Safely the anthems of Zion shall sing;
While for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise
Thy blessèd people shall evermore raise.

There dawns no Sabbath, no Sabbath is o'er,
Those Sabbath-keepers have one and no more;
One and unending is that triumph-song
Which to the Angels and us shall belong.

Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high,
We for that country must yearn and must sigh,
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,
Through our long exile on Babylon's strand.

Low before him with our praises we fall,
Of whom, and in whom, and through whom are all;
Of whom, the Father; and through whom, the Son;
In whom, the Spirit, with these ever One. Amen.

My thanks to the anonymous organist who supplies, via YouTube, the tune for this hymn:

Finally, as an apposite prayer to pair with this hymn, "A Collect for Saturdays" from The Book of Divine Worship (Morning Prayer, Rite One) [which, BTW, I used today instead of the Office]:

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest from all thy works and sanctify a day of rest for all thy creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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