Veni Sancte Spiritus
I’ve written before of how before I joined the Church as a young man I had often thought of living my life as a priest. And although the Lord obviously had other plans for my life, I have always retained an affinity for certain things monastic. One of those things being Gregorian Chants.
Named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, Gregorian Chants are liturgical music associated with certain masses in the Catholic faith. Pope Gregory I is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music within the church, and later, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict (a book of guidelines for practicing monks) Gregorian Chants were prescribed to be sung eight times a day by those living a monastic life.
Among my vast array of favorite Gregorian Chants, one ranks supreme:
Veni Sancte Spiritus
Although ascribing the authorship of the chant to a specific person has proven difficult for hymnologists, it is thought to have been written perhaps as early as the 10th Century, and by the 11th Century is found in many medieval manuscripts.
The title itself, Veni Sancte Spiritus, comes from Latin, and translated means Come Holy Spirit. Written in short melodic stanzas, it is most often sang during the time of Pentecost on the Christian Calendar (the 50 days following Easter each year), and is literally an invitation to the Holy Spirit to come and move upon those who sing it.
The words to the chant, both in original Latin and translated into English, are as follows:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, – Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus – send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium. – radiance of your light.
Veni, pater pauperum, – Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum, – come, giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium. – come, light of the heart.
Consolator optime, – Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae, – sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium. – sweet consolation.
In labore requeis, – In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies, – in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium. – in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima, – O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima – fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium. – of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine, – Without your grace,
nihil est in homine, – there is nothing in us,
nihil est innoxium. – nothing that is not harmful.
Lava quod est sordidum, – Cleanse that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum, – water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium. – heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum, – Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum, – fire that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium. – correct what goes astray.
Da tuis fidelibus, – Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus, – those who trust in you,
sacrum septenarium. – the sevenfold gifts.
Da virtutis meritum, – Grant the reward of virtue,
da salutis exitum, – grant the deliverance of salvation,
da perenne gaudium. – grant eternal joy.
Perhaps you may never come to love Gregorian Chants in the same manner in which I do, but I invite you to read and then reread the words above as you listen to this singular piece of music.
I promise that as you do, and as you internalize them, the Holy Spirit will indeed Come and help you feel a touch of the divine.
It’s my prayer that we might all always live in such a manner that those feelings of divinity are never far away.
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