Monthly Archives: August 2009

Jesu Dulcis Memoria – Translation

I’ve worked up two translations of this old song. I hope both are singable to some tune, but I’m not sure that even the second version fits the original tune. (Which I’m not real familiar with.) Anyway, one of Rich’s commenters brought up the song today, so I thought I’d translate it.

Here’s the Preces-Latinae version for comparison.

Jesu Dulcis Memoria
Lyrics: St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Translations: Maureen S. O’Brien, 8/31/09

Less formal — sort of a country Gospel version:

Sweet to think of You, Jesus —
That gives hearts joy that’s true.
But there’s no honey sweeter than
The Presence of You.

There’s no song that’s lovelier
To sing or hear sung;
There’s no pondering sweeter than
“Jesus is God’s Son.”

Jesus, hope of the penitent,
Kind to all those who pray,
Good to all those who seek for Him.
If you find Him — what to say?

No writing has words for it,
No tongue here can tell;
But try Him and find out
How the ones who’ve loved Him dwell.

O Jesus, be our joy now
And our prize held in store;
May our glory be in You
Forever, evermore.

Translation 2: This actually goes with the tune. I think.

Jesus, the thought of you is sweet.
It gives hearts joy that’s true.
But nothing’s sweeter, even honey —
Than the Real Presence here of You.

There is no song that’s lovelier,
More joyful to hear sung,
Sweeter to wonder and to ponder
Than: “Jesus is God’s Son.”

O hope of all those who repent,
So kind to all who pray,
So good to all who seek for Him.
To those who find Him — what to say?

No writing has the words for it.
No tongue can clearly tell,
But those who’ve tried Him can believe
What waits for those who love Him well.

O Jesus, be our joy for now
And our prize kept in store,
And may our glory be in You
Forever and forevermore.

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Pe trouz war an douar: 17th century Breton Christmas carol

Another really nice hymn tune. Here it is written out, with the lyrics in Breton and French.

An extremely persuasive and amazing performance by a lady named Claude Nadeau. First the lady sings it a capella, then she plays it on the harpsichord with tons of variations!

But you can tell it was an all the way down the street kind of processional song originally, because it has 21 verses! (Scroll down.)

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Adoromp Holl: Breton Communion/Adoration Hymn

A score of the hymn tune, with the words in Breton and French. Very solemn.

The tune on YouTube, as played by harmonium organ and bombarde
. (I love the bombarde, but seriously — turn down your computer’s volume. Bombardes are LOUD.)

A rough translation by me. (I don’t know Breton or French, and am relying on online dictionaries. Beware.)

Adore Him in the Sacrament of the Altar,
The real Son of God, Jesus our master, our Savior.
O blessed Souls, o, princes of His palace,
Adore Him with us, and praise Him forever, and praise Him forever.

For pure mercy, for us, He became incarnate.
For love, He comes to us disguised as bread
Come, Jesus, my Savior, from the altar, your throne,
To give us all your blessing, your blessing.

Honor, glory, and our love eternal
To the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Praise and adore the Three Persons in One God
Through all of time, and all eternity, and all eternity.

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Lovely and Interesting Essay on Greek Culture and Sappho’s Poetry

By that take-no-prisoners scholar Fabio Paolo Barbieri.

There was a lot of this I knew, but several things which were entirely new to me. Classics is a fascinating field.

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Sorry for Being So Very Churchy Lately

I can’t really talk much about what’s going on at work, I don’t want to complain about my health or my weight all the time, and I haven’t really gone anywhere except to see Ponyo. Oh, and I went to the Lebanese Festival over at St. Ignatius of Antioch. But no pics or anything. Sorry.

I’ve read a few books lately, but there either wasn’t much to them or I’d be complaining about how today’s urban fantasy is always making the heroines sleep with guys for no real reason. Also, that I really resent the way this usually ruins the story as well as removing all respect for both the main character and the logical plotting powers of the writer. You all know that already, so nothing new.

Oh, and I picked up an L.E. Modesitt trade paperback of two of his old sf books, mostly because it was 3 bucks in the clearance bin. Not too bad, and though it’s ecology-based sf, there’s not really any ranting at all. Instead it’s diplomatic sf, with intrigue and assassins and war among the stars, and a main characters who’s wilier than the professional diplomats. I’m all for that, so I enjoyed it.


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You Can’t Get There from Here

I was talking to somebody at church the other day, and mentioned that the USCCB had a website up for the new translation of the Roman Missal (ie, all the stuff for Mass, et al.). He was pretty astonished to learn this, as he had just been on the main webpage looking for the thing. Where was it?

Well, there is indeed no direct link to this site off the main USCCB page. I mean, it’s only slightly sorta kinda important. Only gonna affect every Latin Rite Catholic in the English-speaking world. No reason to advertise it or anything. [roll eyes]

The easy way to get there is to follow a direct link, like this one.

Otherwise, you have to go from the main page to the page on Departments and Programs. Then you have to know that you’re looking for the Committee on Divine Worship, and look under “Divine Worship”. The Committee on Divine Worship homepage has one small link to “Roman Missal” on the sidebar.

Once you get to the Roman Missal page, there is lots of info, all right. But the first tab you click is empty, and the most useful tabs are pretty far to the right.

Yeah. Well. Lovin’ that webpage design. (Although, to be fair, it’s clearly laid out, elegant, and legible, in the pure looks department.)

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Gloria, Part 2

The next part of the Gloria is interesting, poetically, because we transition from a parallel structure to both a parallel and a triplet. The fact that the Son and the Father are both God is emphasized. But “Lord” is emphasized three times to tie this section to the next bit:

“Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father,

Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,

Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.”

This is tied by the title “Lamb of God” to the next bit, which echoes the “Lamb of God” later in the Mass. But it also refers back to the “Lord, Have Mercy” which we may have just said in the penitential part of the Mass. Oh, and it’s another triplet, just like the “Lamb of God” and the “Lord, Have Mercy”:

“You take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
You take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.”

We’re about to hit the homestretch. As is appropriate for a Person of the Trinity and the Trinity Itself, the triplets continue:

“For You alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the Most High,

“Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.


Did you notice that we’re back to “glory” again?

Anyway, I trust you’ve noticed how much more sense the traditional content of the Gloria has than the old cruddy American translation we’ve been using for forty years. My goodness, the difference is astounding. It should be a heck of a lot easier to memorize, to set to music, to pray…. It’s like letting the old thing unknot itself, stretch out, and breathe again.

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Constant Vigilance!

Saw something scary today. A friend at work needed extra money, so she applied for one of those mystery shopper jobs.

Trouble was, it turned out to be one of those fraudulent mystery shopper jobs — the ones that send you a fake check, and want you to wire money to “test” their customer service.

She thought it was amusing that the check in her envelope claimed to be from Miamisburg, Ohio, but that it was allegedly coming from Kroger in Canada by the postage and other stuff. Why? That’s the only reason she showed me her envelope introducing her to her new “job”.

By the mercy of God or the hard work of her guardian angel, I remembered one of those true crime shows I often watch, and was able to find a description of the current version of the scam on Snopes that was detailed enough to convince my friend. Since the scammer pretended to be working for Kroger, she is also going to alert Kroger that this is going out in their name.

These people prey on people needing money, and leave them holding the bag for thousands of dollars. They are scum. Some are caught, but not enough. Be on your guard.

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“And on earth, peace to people of goodwill.”

In other Rites, there are tons of really long hymns of praise integral to the structure of the Ordinary of the Mass. In the Latin Rite, this and the Sanctus are about all we got. So it’s kinda important to get right, even if we don’t use it at all Masses in all times of the Church year.

Nobody’s quite sure just how old the Gloria is. They’re pretty sure it goes back to the third century (that’s the 200’s) and some think it goes back to the first (that’s the 00’s). It’s not all from the Bible, and was apparently written by a private person for devotional reasons. Fortescue in the Catholic Encyclopedia calls this sort of thing from back then the “psalmi idiotici” — which doesn’t come from idiotic, but from “idio-“, self, like “idiosyncrasy” — the personal psalms, if you will. Originally it was in Greek, according to Fortescue, which makes sense since Greek was the common language of the Empire. So… a joyful ancient devotional hymn from the earliest days of Christianity under persecution, like the cheerful “Phos Hilaron”.

Anyway, it was first introduced into Mass at Christmas, and later got put into Masses for big feasts only. But gradually it got into more common use. We still don’t say it during Lent, most weekdays, etc., because it’s still a hymn of special joy.

The new English translation of the Gloria is obviously superior to the old, because it doesn’t rearrange the poetry or leave out entire lines. If you ever felt that the Gloria in English is kinda disorganized — well, it was.

The first part of the Gloria is kind of a swirl of glory, sorta like the cloud in the temple. There’s a reason the other name for the Gloria is the Angelic Hymn: we are clearly greeting the Messiah and singing with the angels, who of course are right there in church with us, whether we see them or not. (There’s a reason artists sculpt and paint angels all over the place in old churches, and it’s not just because wings are purty.)

It all starts with a direct quote from the angels singing over Bethlehem:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.

This comes straight from the Latin Vulgate (or one of its versions, anyway):

“Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra, pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis.”

Interestingly, this poetic structure mimics the Greek very closely. If you’ll suffer my bad transcription of’s useful Chain Link transliteration of the Greek, you’ll see this:

“Doxa en hupsistos Theos
kai epi ge, eirene en anthropos eudokia.”

That’s “ge” as in “geo” or “Gaia”. “DOXa” and “euDOKia” are sorta-kinda related words, so there’s a lot a lot of paralleling and shared sounds there. (Anyway, see what St. Jerome did there? Just like the Greek. Not pulled out of his butt.)

It’s a nice sort of inverted parallel, and it was never anything grammatically necessary in Latin, Greek, Aramaic or any other language the angels might have sung in. It was done for beauty’s sake, on purpose, not as an accident of language; so any language that can keep it, probably should.

Here’s how it works. “Glory to God” and “peace to men of goodwill” stand on the outside, and the locations are on the inside of the phrase. Isn’t that nice? * Like this:

Glory to God
in the highest,
and on earth
peace to people of good will.

The older way of doing this at a sung Mass was for the priest basically to intone (chant) the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” part, and then to have the choir (representing the people) to sing/chant everything from “Et in terra pax” onward. Kind of a nice answer format, as if the angels announce and the people of Earth reply with a hymn of their own. (But of course it is pretty standard in all chant and a lot of Catholic prayer for somebody to start things off with the first phrase, and everybody to chime in afterward.)

Then we get into elaborations, with a nice parallel structure. The Latin sure sounds cool:

Laudamus te, benedicimus te,
Adoramus te, glorificamus te,

It’s interesting, because you could say this in the opposite order, like the Te Deum does. But somehow, “Te laudamus, te benedicimus, te adoramus, te glorificamus” just doesn’t have the right roll to it, so the poet made a good choice. (Also, it hisses a lot, which is the bane of all choir directors and songwriters. Probably back then, too.)

Anyway, back to the new translation:

We praise you, we bless you,
we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,

You see what I mean about swirling? Here we are, at the end of the first part, back at the word “glory” again along with “glorify”. This is a feature, not a bug.

This is where the lack of catechesis, and bad English translation, on this hymn really starts to bite, though. It seems that we’re covering different kinds of prayer: praise, blessing, adoration. But what exactly is it, to glorify God? Are we summing up the others? Or are we talking about living so as to give God glory in our works? Or what? I’m not up on this. *

What is clear is that, at the end of the first part of the Gloria, we come to a phrase that’s a double-entendre. It usually was forbidden to speak of the secret, sacred things in front of catechumens and unbelievers, but here we are: “We give you thanks for your great glory.”

“We give you thanks” does mean thanks, yes, which is one of our duties to God in prayer. But it’s also talking about giving thanks as in _the_ Thanks-giving, the Eucharist. So — we celebrate the Eucharist “for your great glory.” And since, in a minute, we’ll be addressing the Son, this is a natural lead-in to the second part of the Gloria, as well as summing up all prayer and adoration to God in the Mass.

* “Isn’t that nice?” — Like angel’s wings. ­čÖé

* “I’m not up on this” — (No, that doesn’t mean I’m moaning that I can’t understaaand all this haaard stuff so taaake it awaaaay. It means I want somebody to teach me, instead of burying me head downward in the dark like an onion, for all my 39 years as a Catholic! Quit shirking, American church!)

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I am in a state of admiration and envy, thanks to this parody.

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Sudden Obvious Realization #564

The Mass recapitulates, reexperiences, all of Christ’s life and thus church history.

I suddenly realized that – DUH! The Gloria is Christmas! We’re singing with the angels (in the new translation at least) — “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of goodwill”! It’s CHRISTMAS!

The start of Mass is the Annunciation. That time when the priest says, the Lord be with you — he’s talking Emmanuel. It’s like Gabriel and Mary all in one!

The Gloria is Christmas, the Liturgy of the Word is the public life of Christ, the Creed is Peter and the rest believing. Then everything from the Offertory on is the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. (Well, that part I did know.) Then after Communion, the Lord sends us on our way with the Great Commission. When the Real Presence is no longer present within us, it’s Ascension. And the whole time we look toward the East, if we do, we’re looking toward the Second Coming.

We covered the Mass at least two different years in religion class or CCD. Why didn’t anybody tell me? Why didn’t I realize? It was so blindingly obvious!!!

(Now watch. Somebody in the comments will cite something I’ve read, or should have read, that says exactly this thing; and then I will feel stupid. Stupid-er.)


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Sor Juana to Fr. Kino, S.J.

Padre Eusebio Francisco Chini (aka Kino) was a well-known Jesuit missionary in California and the Southwest, whose advocacy for the Indians and founding of the cattle industry have led some to call him the first cowboy of the American West.

But, like pretty much all Jesuits back then, he was also supposed to make scientific observations on earthquakes and astronomical events, and send them to his superiors, along with all his other reports. Apparently, he at one point observed a comet, and wrote about it.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the renowned Mexican poet and Hieronymite sister, wrote a sonnet to him on this occasion. Which I have just found today, in the many wonderful facsimile editions of her stuff available online.

From Inundaci├│n cast├ílida de la ├║nica poetisa, musa d├ęcima, Soror Juana In├ęs de la Cruz… : que en varios metros, idiomas, y estilos, fertiliza varios assumptos; con elegantes, sutiles, claros, ingeniosos, ├║tiles versos : para ense├▒anza, recreo, y admiraci├│n.

Sonnet. Applauds the Astronomical science of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J., of the Company of Jesus, who wrote of the Comet that appeared in the year ’80, and absolved it of the Ominous.

Aunque es clara del Cielo la luz pura,
clara la Luna, y claras las estrellas,
y claras las efimeras centellas,
que el ayre el├ęva, y el incendio apura;

Aunque es el rayo claro, cuya dura
produccion, cuesta al viento mil querellas,
y el relámpago, que hizo de sus huellas
medrosa luz en la tiniebla obscura;

Todo el conocimiento torpe humano
se estuvo obscuro, sin que las mortales
plumas pudiessen ser, con buelo ufano,

Icaros de discursos racionales;
hasta que al tuyo, Eusebio soberano,
les dió luz á las luzes celestiales.

Here’s my translation. It cheats quite a bit with the measure and scansion, alas for my lack of cleverness.

Still bright, the pure light from the sky,
Bright is the moon, and bright the stars,
And bright, th’ephemeral flashes are
That lift the air; their fires purify.

Still bright the ray — so arduously made,
It cost the wind a thousand times to wince,
And bright the lightning, that from its footprints
Made shrinking coward light in the dark cloud shade.

All lumb’ring human knowledge’s light
Made itself dark, without which mortals might
have all had feathers, with a joyful flight,
The Icaruses of discourse rational;
until, sovereign Eusebio, the light
you gave to all the lights celestial.

The downside of this is that while Fr. Kino, a math professor before he was a missionary, made extremely accurate observations, and didn’t claim that comets were the result of earthly eruptions as some did at the time, he still said that comets presaged great disasters. So “absolving the ominous” is not exactly meaning what I thought it would, unless Sor Juana didn’t read that part of his book.

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Annoying Thing #6482

When you go looking for some super-abstruse medieval book of Marian theology, the only people inclined to quote it are:

-Sites warning Protestants against Eeeevul mariolatry, even if the way they warn them happens to theologically undermine Jesus and basic Christian theology.

-Sites demanding that Catholics ordain women, both because the medieval Marian theologian praised Mary in terms they like, and because he or she praised Mary in terms they don’t like.

I will balance this with Cool Thing about the Internet #18976:

If you go looking for a medieval manuscript or Renaissance incunabulum, you’re quite likely to find pictures of it which are readable and useful, and without ever leaving your house. Thank you, National Diet Library of Japan! (That’s their Library of Congress.)

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Medieval Complexion Colors and Humors Theory

I was searching for something else entirely, and found this in a book on Fra Angelico by Georges Didi-Huberman.

He goes through a whole bunch of earlier medieval text sources about Mary to explain stuff that Fra Angelico does with color, albeit in much greater detail and beauty than mere text could manage. Logically enough, it seems that when your medievals got to talking about “complexio”, the complexion — they really meant the blending together of your humors which influenced your personality, and was then reflected in your skin.

So the classic Indo-European poetic love of describing people as being white and red becomes a matter in Mary (and the Strong Woman) of a graceful combination of the phlegmatic and sanguinary temperaments, which were associated with water and air, white and red. The amusing bit is that the medievals, especially Albert, were quick to remind people that the Song of Songs suggested that Mary was on the dark side (“I am black/tanned but beautiful”), and hence that her complexio included black, the melancholic temperament associated with black bile and earth. But since Mary was the “virgin earth” out of which the New Adam was formed, this was a good thing. (There was some sort of discussion of the symbolism of eye color in medieval painting also, but then the limited preview of the book ended.)

I love finding out this kind of stuff. It may not be useful for our faith today (although very useful for art historians and readers), but it does show that if you have theories about how the world works, you might as well follow them out into all sorts of areas of thought and see what kind of cool stuff you can come up with.

Also, this Didi-Huberman guy has written an awful lot of art history/symbolism books, including stuff on St. George and the Dragon, and a lot of it seems to have been translated into English. You might want to check him out. That Fra Angelico book sure seemed interesting and well-researched, just from the little glimpse I had of it.

Just for fun and entertainment purposes — given the information in this post, and using your own knowledge of Marian tradition, who wants to write up a Marian exegesis of the fairy tale “Snow White”? ­čÖé

(Btw, I’m pretty sure that Tolkien was not above similar joking, what with that horrible pun ending the Akallabeth. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that one use of “snow-white” in the Elbereth song was not just poetry, but also a learned joke.)

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