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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Oh. What? There -- Joys!

Here in South-East Central Europe, people are heading to the cemeteries today, to place candles by the graves of the faithful departed. Many American Christians will never know that All Saints Day has come and gone; many others will only celebrate it next Sunday.

And don't get us started on All Souls Day, a day once reserved for the not-so-faithful departed. If you ask us, it was the more realistic of the two November holy days. The general Protestant disdain for Purgatory pretty much killed that one, although ... Tract XC, anybody?

Anyway. Your congregation will probably sing For All the Saints; almost everybody does, and well they might. Great freakin' hymn. But please do consider this gem, by Peter Abelard:

O quanta, qualia sunt illa sabbata

quae semper celebrat superna curia.

quae fessis requies, quae merces fortibus,

cum erit omnia Deus in omnibus.

quis rex, quae curia, quale palatium,

quae pax, quae requies, quod illud gaudium,

huius participes exponant gloriam,

si quantum sentiunt, possint exprimere.

vere Ierusalem est illa civitas,

cuius pax iugis est, summa iucunditas,

ubi non praevenit rem desiderium,

nec desiderio minus est praemium.

illic molestiis finitis omnibus

securi cantica Sion cantibimus,

et iuges gratias de donis gratiae

beata referet plebs tibi, Domine.

Illic ex sabbato succedet sabbatum,

perpes laetitia sabbatizantium,

nec ineffabiles cessabunt iubili,

quos decantabimus et nos et angeli.

Nostrum est interim mentem erigere

et totis patriam votis appetere,

et ad Ierusalem a Babylonia

post longa regredi tandem exilia.

Perenni Domino perpes sit gloria,

ex quo sunt, per quem sunt, in quo sunt omnia;

ex quo sunt, Pater est; per quem sunt, Filius;

in quo sunt, Patris et Filii Spiritus.

Here is John Mason Neale's translation:

O what their joy and their glory must be,

those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see;

crown for the valiant, to weary ones rest:

God shall be All, and in all ever blest.

What are the Monarch, his court and his throne?

What are the peace and the joy that they own?

O that the blest ones, who in it have share,

all that they feel could as fully declare!

Truly, "Jerusalem" name we that shore,

city of peace that brings joy evermore;

wish and fulfillment are not severed there,

nor do things prayed for come short of the prayer.

There, where no troubles distraction can bring,

we the sweet anthems of Zion shall sing;

while for thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise

thy blessèd people eternally raise.

Now, in the meantime, with hearts raised on high,

we for that country must yearn and must sigh,

seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,

through our long exile on Babylon's strand.

Low before him with our praises we fall,

of whom and in whom and through whom are all;

of whom, the Father; and in whom, the Son;

and through whom, the Spirit, with them ever One.

It is one of Neale's best efforts, although he apparently did not bother to translate stanza 5, illic ex sabbato, etc. (Basically, it says that there where sabbath follows sabbath forever, saints will forever celebrate the Sabbath, singing our joyful songs alongside the angels.)

One thing to observe is that "O quanta qualia" doesn't mean "joy and glory." It is a more subtle expression, something on the order of of "O, how many and of what sort." Also, the "blessed ones" are actually described as "the supernal court," matching the expression in the next stanza.

Sadly, the thing most to be noted is that Lutherans have long been deprived of so much from this hymn. The LBW includes only 4 (altered) stanzas, so the wonderful rhetorical questions of st. 2 are gone, as is the comparison of life on earth to the Babylonian exile. But all that pales before the fact that ELW doesn't include the hymn at all.

Still, here are the words, for anybody who wants them. They're worth singing today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dia de los muertos in addition highlights foods of the saints & souls. kc