Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Feast of the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated today in many churches, commemorating the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary to give her the surprising news of her impending pregnancy (as told in Luke 1:26-38). It's nine months to Christmas! Some churches have moved that particular lesson into the season of Advent, while some will mark it on both occasions.

The hymn chosen here is not well known today, though it was one of the office hymns of the church as far back as the sixth century. The Latin text by Venantius Fortunatus was originally sung to plainchant but was also set to music by various composers, such as William Byrd. It begins:

Quem terra, pontus, aethera
colunt, adorant, praedicant,
trinam regentem machinam
claustrum Mariae baiulat.

This comes to us in English from Edward Caswall, published in his Hymns and Poems Original and Translated (1873).

Our God, whom earth and air and sea
With one adoring voice resound;
Who rules them all in majesty;
In Mary's heart a cloister found.

Lo! in a humble virgin's womb,
O'ershadowed by Almighty power;
God whom the stars and sun and moon,
Each serve in their appointed hour.

O Mary blest, to whom was giv'n
Within thy compass to contain
The Architect of earth and heav'n,
Whose hands the universe contain;

To thee was sent an angel down;
In thee the Spirit was enshrined;
From thee came forth the Mighty One,
The long-desired of humankind.

O Jesus, born of Mary bright,
Unending praise we sing to thee,
To the Creator infinite,
And Holy Spirit: wondrous Three.

Venantius Fortunatus, 6th cent.
tr. Edward Caswall, 1873; alt.
Tune: SHARON (L.M.)
Frederick A. Gore Ouseley, 1875

John Mason Neale translated this Latin text in his Hymnal Noted (1854) as The God whom earth and sea and sky, and his version (somewhat altered) is still in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 but I liked Caswall's version better. Neale already gets plenty of exposure.

P.S. The window above with Mary and Gabriel is from the Lady chapel of my own church, older than the ones seen here before.

One Year Ago: Godfrey Thring

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merci d'avoir un blog interessant