The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Jesu, decus angelicum

For Christmas

Lauds Hymn, for the Holy Name, from the Breviary.

Cento from Hymn of St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, Twelfth Century.

Translations: O Jesus Thou the Beauty Art
Crown of the Angels, Thy Sweet Name
Jesu, Highest Heaven's Completeness

Source: Roman Breviary.

Jesu, decus angelicum,
in aure dulce canticum,
in ore mel mirificum,
in corde nectar caelicum.

Qui te gustant, esuriunt,
qui bibunt, adhuc sitiunt;
desiderare nesciunt,
nisi Iesum, quem diligunt.

O Iesu mi dulcissime,
spes suspirantis animae!
Te quaerunt piae lacrimae,
Te clamor mentis intimae.

Mane nobiscum, Domine,
et nos illustra lumine;
Pulsa mentis caligine,
Mundum reple dulcedine.

Iesu, flos Matris Virginis,
amor nostrae dulcedinis,
Tibi laus, honor nominis,
regnum beatitudinis. Amen.

Notes from Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 109-111.

The Holy Name Of Jesus


Jesu dulcis memoria

Author: St. Bernard (1091-1153). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation by Father Caswall. Liturgical Use: This and the two following centos are used on the Feast of the Holy Name, which is celebrated on the Sunday between the Circumcision and the Epiphany, or failing such a Sunday, on January 2d.

The three centos involved here are:
43. Vespers. Jesu dulcis memoria - Jesu! The Very Thought Of Thee!
44. Matins. Jesu, Rex admirabilis - O Jesu, King Most Wonderful
45. Lauds. Jesu, decus angelicum - O Jesus Thou the Beauty Art

The complete hymn as found in the Benedictine edition of the Opera of St. Bernard contains forty-eight stanzas. There are six translations of the complete hymn. Many centos from the hymn, including the three given here for Vespers, Matins, and Lauds, have been translated more frequently. There are two translations of these three centos in Mr. Shipley's Annus Sanctus.

The Jesu dulcis memoria is a hymn of surpassing sweetness, and it has been universally accorded a place among the greatest hymns of the Church. According to Mr. James Mearns, the assistant editor of Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, this hymn is "The finest and most characteristic specimen of St. Bernard's 'subjective loveliness' and its honied sweetness vindicates his title of 'Doctor Melifluus.'" Father Caswall's much admired translation preserves much of the "honied sweetness" of the original.

The ascription of this hymn to St. Bernard has been called in question. Dom Pothier has discovered a copy of it in manuscripts of about the year 1070, in which it is ascribed to a Benedictine abbess. Father Blume, S.J., in the article on Hymnody in the Cath. Encycl. pronounces against its ascription to St. Bernard. On the other hand Mr. James Mearns says: "This hymn has been generally (and there seems little reason to doubt correctly) ascribed to St. Bernard." (Dict. of Hymnol.) There is an article on this hymn in the Index Vol. of the Cath. Encycl.

1. "O Jesus, glory of the Angels, Thou art a sweet canticle to the ear, wondrous honey to the mouth, heavenly nectar to the heart."

2. "Those who taste of Thee still hunger; those who drink of Thee still thirst; they know not to desire ought else but Jesus whom they love." Ego sum panis vitae: qui venit ad me, non esuriet: et qui credit in me, non sitiet unquam (John 6, 35).

3. "O my most sweet Jesus, the hope of my sighing soul; loving tears and the cry of my inmost heart seek after Thee."

4. "Stay with us, 0 Lord, and illuminate us with Thy light; the darkness of the mind having been dispelled, fill the world with Thy sweetness."

5. "O Jesus, flower of the Virgin-Mother, love of our sweetness, to Thee be praise, honor of name, kingdom of blessedness."

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