Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Creator of the stars of night: Advent 1 resource for Emmanuel Church and friends

A little more about the chant linked in "This Week at Emmanuel Church." (Note: underlined words or phrases are hyperlinks: click and the linked web page will open in a separate window.)

First, an invitation to spiritual practice:

Listen to the chant this evening or even every evening this week. Repetition is good and can steady you after a less than steady day.
Some history:
Many of you may already be familiar with this chant.  Some churches sing it as a hymn in English as "Creator of the Stars of Night," with words by 19th century lyricist John Mason Neale. It is also known by its original Latin titles, "Conditor Alme Siderum" and "Creator Alme Siderum."
An anonymous text traditionally used at Vespers (evening prayer) during Advent, "Conditor Alme Siderum" was revised in the 17th century under Pope Urban and became "Creator Alme Siderum" with a different set of lyrics. In recent years churches and choirs --those who use the Latin, anyway-- have returned to the original "Conditor" version. Many English translations exist.
Here is a Gregorian chant version in Latin sung by alternating men's and women's voices.  (For some reason, the "Creator" version is used.)
This Advent hymn of chanted praise spans all of salvation history, from creation to the end of time.
Conditor alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.

Nourishing author* of the stars,
eternal light of those who believe,
Christ, redeemer of all
answer the prayers of those who beseech you.
The latin word conditor has many meanings: it means author, composer, creater, builder, founder, and preserver. So all those connotations are there when we sing "conditor alme siderum." Alme is the same word as alma in "alma mater."

The above translation from the Latin is mine and is obviously not in verse. It is a more             literal translation than the formal poetic translations like John Mason Neale's (from the Episcopal Hymnal 1982):

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light;
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear thy servants when they call.
Here's a picture for you to contemplate. More words and translation follow below.

Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, NASA photo via HubbleSite.org


Later, the hymn expresses fear, even dread, but also the hope and assurance of protection.

Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.

Holy One, in faith we beg You,
You the judge of the world about to come,
guard us in this present era
from the weapon of the treacherous enemy.

                    (My translation again, with a little help from an existing one.)

More spiritual practice:
But you can just listen to the Latin. Hum along, or let the music carry you.


No comments: