The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Jesu, Rex admirabilis

For Christmas

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

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

Translations: O Jesu, King Most Wonderful
O Jesu, Lord, Most Mighty King
Jesu, King O'er All Adored

Source: Roman Breviary

Jesu, Rex admirabilis
et triumphator nobilis,
dulcedo ineffabilis,
totus desiderabilis.

Quando cor nostrum visitas,
tunc lucet ei veritas,
mundi vilescit vanitas,
et intus fervet caritas.

Jesu, dulcedo cordium,
fons vivus, lumen mentium,
excedens omne gaudium
et omne desiderium.

Jesum omnes agnoscite,
amorem eius poscite;
Jesum ardenter quaerite,
quaerendo inardescite.

Te nostra, Jesu, vox sonet,
nostri te mores exprimant;
te corda nostra diligant
et nunc, et in perpetuum. 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, admirable king and noble conqueror, sweetness ineffable, wholly to be desired." Totus, wholly, altogether, above all else.

2. "When Thou dost visit our heart, then truth illuminates it; the vanity of the world becomes contemptible, and charity glows within."

3. "O Jesus, sweetness of hearts, living fountain, light of intellects, Thou dost surpass all joys and all desires."

4. "Let all confess Jesus, let all earnestly ask for His love; let all zealously seek Jesus, and in seeking Him become enkindled."

5. "Thee, O Jesus, may our voices praise; may the whole course of our lives (mores) give testimony of Thee; may our hearts love Thee now and forever."

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