March 27, 2016

Rex Sempiterne Cælitum / O Thou, the Heavens' Eternal King

EASTERTIDE - Rex Sempiterne Cælitum is an anonymous Ambrosian hymn dating back to the 6th century. Originally titled: Rex coterie Domine, the text has gone through a number of significant changes over the centuries including those made for a Benedictine Breviary and by Pope Urban VIII. St. Bede (672?-735) sings it's praises in De Arte Metrica as "that admirable hymn... fashioned exquisitely after the model of iambic metre". In the Roman Breviary it is traditionally sung at Matins during the Paschal season. The translation given below: O Thou, the Heavens' Eternal King  is Hymn 61 in Fr. Britts' Hymns of the Breviary and Missal. It is "a cento" (from the Latin word for patchwork) meaning: "a poetic form made up of lines various from poems", or in this case other verses from translations of the hymn. It can be sung to the hymn tune: St. Botolph, as featured in the videos below.


1. Rex sempiterne coelitum,
Rerum Creator omnium,
Aequalis ante secular
Semper Parenti Filius.

 2. Nascente qui mundo Faber
Imaginem vultus tui
Tradens Adamo, nobilem
Limo jugasti spirit.

3. Cum livor et fraus daemonis
Foedasset humanum genus:
Tu carne amictus, perditam
Formam reformas Artifex.

 4. Qui natus olim e Virgine,
Nunc e sepulcro nasceris
Tecumque nos a mortuis
Jubes sepultos surgiere.

5. Qui pastor aeternus gregem
Aqua lavas Baptismatis:
Haec est lavacrum mentium;
Haec est sepulcrum criminum.

6. Nobis diu qui debitae
Redemptor affixus Cruci,
Nostrae dedisti prodigus
Pretium salutis sanguines.

7. Ut sis perenne mentibus
Paschale, Jesu, gaudium,
A morte dira criminum
Vitae renatos libera.

8. Deo Patri sit gloria,
Et Filio, qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
In sempiterna secular.

Click here for music/text which Fr. Vogel sings. (opens in new window)

O THOU, THE HEAVENS' ETERNAL KING (from "Hymns of the Breviary and Missal")

1. O Thou, the heavens' eternal King,
Creator, unto Thee we sing,
With God the Father ever One,
Co-equal, co-eternal Son.

2. Thy hand, when first the world began,
Made in Thine own pure image man,
And linked to Adam, sprung from earth,
A living soul of heavenly birth.

3. And when by craft the envious foe
Had marred Thy noblest work below,
Clothed in our flesh, Thou didst restore
The image Thou hadst made before-

4. Once wast Thou born of Mary's womb;
And now, new-born from out the tomb,
0 Christ, Thou bidd'st us rise with
Thee From death to immortality.

5. Eternal Shepherd, Thou dost lave
Thy flock in pure baptismal wave—
That mystic bath, that grave of sin,
Where ransomed souls new life begin.

6. Redeemer, Thou for us didst deign
To hang upon the Cross of pain,
And give for us the lavish price
Of Thine own Blood in sacrifice.

7. Grant, Lord, in Thee each faithful mind
Unceasing Paschal joy may find;
And from the death of sin set free
Souls newly born to life by Thee.

8. To Thee, once dead, who now dost live,
All glory, Lord, Thy people give,
Whom, with the Father, we adore,
And Holy Ghost forevermore.