Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Sun of Justice

A friend recently asked for a little background on a hymn in With One Voice, and we are happy to oblige to the best of our ability.  It is # 659, translated by Peter Scagnelli as "O Sun of Justice." The original is Iam Christe sol iustitiae, a 6th-century hymn (extensively revised in 1632 and now entitled O sol salutis intimis). The Roman Breviary appoints it for weekday Lauds during Lent.

John Julian observes that in the hymn, Lent "is regarded as a season of waiting and penitential preparation for the Second Creation at Easter," which seems like the sort of thing that should be true of any Lenten hymn. The opening line contains an obvious reference to Malachi 4:2, and the second stanza one to Isaiah 49:8 and 2 Corinthians 6:2.

It has been translated many times. The excellent site Preces Latinae offers a version by John Dryden, which we have printed below.  J.D. Chambers version, "O Christ! Thou Sun of Justice, Come," was once in common use.  In its revised version, it has also been translated by Edward Caswall as "The Darkness Fleets, and Joyful Earth."  We think that the WOV version is faithful enough, except perhaps for its doxology. It does not, however, retain the church-y words like "penance," which is either a gain or a loss, depending upon one's perspective.

Here are the original Latin lyrics:

Iam, Christe, sol iustitiae,
mentis dehiscant tenebrae,
virtutum ut lux redeat,
terris diem cum reparas.
Dans tempus acceptabile
et paenitens cor tribue,
convertat ut benignitas
quos longa suffert pietas.
Quiddamque paenitentiae
da ferre, quo fit demptio,
maiore tuo munere,
culparum quamvis grandium.
Dies venit, dies tua,
per quam reflorent omnia;
laetemur in hac ut tuae
per hanc reducti gratiae.
Te rerum universitas,
clemens, adoret, Trinitas,
et nos novi per veniam
novum canamus canticum.
Here is the translation by no less than John Dryden (which is the one we chose for Odd Hours):

Now Christ, Thou Sun of righteousness,
let dawn our darkened spirits bless:
the light of grace to us restore
while day to earth returns once more.

Thou who dost give the accepted time,
give, too, a heart that mourns for crime,
let those by mercy now be cured
whom loving - kindness long endured.

Spare not, we pray, to send us here
some penance kindly but severe,
so let Thy gift of pardoning grace
our grievous sinfulness efface.

Soon will that day, Thy day, appear
and all things with its brightness cheer:
we will rejoice in it, as we
return thereby to grace, and Thee.

Let all the world from shore to shore
Thee, gracious Trinity, adore;
right soon Thy loving pardon grant,
that we our new-made song may chant. Amen.

Here is WOV's version:

O Sun of justice, Jesus Christ,
dispel the darkness of our hearts,
till your blest light makes nighttime flee
and brings the joys your day imparts.

In this our “time acceptable”
touch ev’ry heart with sorrow, Lord,
that, turned from sin, renewed by grace,
we may press on toward love’s reward.

The day, your day, in beauty dawns
when in your light earth blooms anew;
led back again to life’s true way,
may we, forgiv’n, rejoice in you.

O loving Trinity, our God,
to you we bow through endless days,
and in your grace new-born we sing
new hymns of gratitude and praise. Amen

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