The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Celestial Word, To This Our Earth

For Advent: Matins

Words: Verbum supernum prodiens, Ambrosian, 5th - 6th Century, with notes

Translation by W. J. Courthope

Another Translation: Thy Father's Bosom Thou Didst Leave
O Heavenly Word, Eternal Light

Celestial Word, to this our earth
Sent down from God's eternal clime,
To save mankind by mortal birth
Into a world of change and time;

Enlighten our hearts; vain hopes destroy;
and in Thy love's consuming fire 
Fill all the soul with heavenly joy,
And melt the dross of low desires.

So when the Judge of quick and dead
Shall bid His awful summons come,
To whelm the guilty soul with dread,
And call the blessed to their home,

Saved from the whirling, black abyss,
Forevermore to us be given
To share the feast of saintly bliss,
And see the face of God in heaven.

To God the Father and the Son
Our songs with one accord we raise;
And to the Holy Spirit, One
With Them, be ever equal praise.

Notes from Rev. Matthew Britt:

Source: Rev. Matthew Britt, O.S.B., Hymns from the Breviary and Missal (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1922), pp. 97-98.

Author: Ambrosian, 5th or 6th cent. Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation: Celestial Word, To This Our Earth by W. J. Courthope (bio below). There are about thirty translations, four of which are in the Annus Sanctus. Liturgical Use: Hymn for Matins on Sundays and week-days during Advent. There is an article on this hymn in the Cath. Encycl.

1. "O Heavenly Word proceeding from the bosom of the Eternal Father, Thou wast born, and didst come to the aid of the world, in the fleeting course of time." Verbum, the Word, the Eternal Son (cf. John 1, 1-14). Constr.: Qui labente cursu temporis (abl. absol.) natus es (et) orbi subvenis.

2. "Enlighten Thou our hearts and inflame them with Thy love, that the joys of heaven may fill the heart which abandons perishable things." Constr.: Ut voluptas cúli impleat cor deserens caduca.

3-4. "That when the tribunal of the Judge shall condemn the guilty to the flames, and a friendly voice shall call the just to the heaven due to them, may we then not be cast headlong into the black whirlpool as the food of flames, but participating in the beatific vision, may we enjoy the pleasures of heaven." Debitum: due to them, because promised to them by Christ. Constr.: Ut non volvamur esca flammarum inter nigros turbines, sed compotes vultu Dei fruamur gaudiis Cúli.

Translator: William John Courthope, LL.D. (1842-1885), was educated at Harrow, and New College, Oxford. Mr. Courthope was professor of poetry at Oxford, 1895-1901. Author of History of English Poetry, 4 volumes, 1895-1903. He contributed five beautiful translations of Latin hymns to Church Hymns, 1903; through the kindness of The Macmillan Company all of these spirited translations appear in this volume. Hymns: 14, 16, 18, 27, 36. Source: Britt, pp. 364-365.

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