Thursday, 13 March 2008

Crux Fidelis: "Faithful cross above all other..."

This is another great traditional hymn by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) used extensively in the Church’s public prayer and liturgy.

It is a beautiful hymn but again, sadly, all too rarely heard in the Novus Ordo liturgy but always heard in the traditional liturgy.

There are two hymns called Pange Lingua in use, one by St. Thomas Aquinas and this one, by Venantius Fortunatus extolling the triumph of the Holy Cross.

This, too, was written for the procession of the True Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570.

Traditional rite Catholics will be familiar with its use on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross but it will be even more familiar to those who use the traditional rite Breviary or Office books.

Liturgically the hymn is often broken up into smaller parts, particularly as Lustra sex and Crux fidelis.

The second verse makes reference to the pious tradition that the wood of the Holy Cross was taken from the Tree of Paradise in the Garden of Eden.

How can this be, you may ask.

The answer is thus: after the death of Adam, his son, Seth obtained from the Cherubim guarding the Garden a branch of the tree from which Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Seth planted this branch at Golgotha (the place of the skull), which is so named because Adam was buried there. As time went on, the Ark of the Covenant, the pole upon which the bronze serpent was lifted, and other items were made from this tree, so it is said.

You may have seen crucifixes with a skull below the corpus. This represents Christ’s victory over death but it also reflects the pious tradition that Adam was buried on Golgotha and that the blood of Christ seeped through the cracks in the earth and tomb beneath on and onto the skull of Adam beneath. Thus the bones of Adam were materially bathed in the Blood of Christ just as Original Sin, caused by Adam’s sin, is washed away by His Blood, the Blood of the Lamb of God, sacrificed as the Paschal Lamb upon the Holy Cross.

Golgotha: the place of the Crucifixion
beneath which was reputed to lie the tomb of Adam
and over which now stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pange Lingua (including Crux Fidelis)

by Venantius Fortunatus

PANGE, lingua, gloriosi
proelium certaminis,
et super Crucis trophaeo
dic triumphum nobilem,
qualiter Redemptor orbis
immolatus vicerit.

De parentis protoplasti
fraude Factor condolens,
quando pomi noxialis
morte morsu corruit,
ipse lignum tunc notavit,
damna ligni ut solveret.

Hoc opus nostrae salutis
ordo depoposcerat,
multiformis proditoris
ars ut artem falleret,
et medelam ferret inde,
hostis unde laeserat.

Quando venit ergo sacri
plenitudo temporis,
missus est ab arce Patris
natus, orbis, Conditor,
atque ventre virginali
carne factus prodiit.

Vagit infans inter arcta
conditus praesepia:
membra pannis involuta
Virgo Mater alligat:
et manus pedesque et crura
stricta cingit fascia.

LUSTRA sex qui iam peracta
tempus implens corporis,
se volente, natus ad hoc,
passioni deditus,
Agnus in crucis levatur
immolandus stipite.

En acetum, fel, arundo,
sputa, clavi, lancea:
mite corpus perforatur,
Sanguis, unda profluit
terra, pontus, astra, mundus,
quo lavantur flumine!

CRUX fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert,
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo,
dulce pondus sustinens!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti
ferre saeculi pretium,
atque portum praeparare
nauta mundo naufrago,
quem sacer cruor perunxit,
fusus Agni corpore.

Aequa Patri Filioque,
inclito Paraclito,
sempiterna sit beatae
Trinitati gloria,
cuius alma nos redemit
atque servat gratia. Amen.


SING, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden,
man had sunk in Satan's snare,
when our pitying Creator did
this second tree prepare;
destined, many ages later,
that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed
when for sin He would atone;
to the serpent thus opposing
schemes yet deeper than his own;
thence the remedy procuring,
whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness
of the sacred time drew nigh,
then the Son, the world's Creator,
left his Father's throne on high;
from a virgin's womb appearing,
clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger,
lo, a tender babe He lies!
see his gentle Virgin Mother
lull to sleep his infant cries!
while the limbs of God incarnate
round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood
in our mortal flesh attain:
then of His free choice He goeth
to a death of bitter pain;
and as a lamb, upon the altar
of the cross, for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches!
see the thorns upon His brow!
Nails His tender flesh are rending!
See His side is opened now!
Whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
streams of blood and water flow.

FAITHFUL Cross! Above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
this world's Victim to sustain;
harbour from the raging tempest!
Ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honour, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

The Cross shall triumph over sin...



Anonymous said...

Nice web-site, but you have a picture of the wrong Calvary. You show Gordon's Calvary, and while some Protestants believe it to be the site of Christ's Passion, no Christian tradition has ever identified it with the burial place of Adam. The traditional burial site of Adam is under the Calvery of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which has been identified by the Catholic and Orthodox churches since the time of Constantine, probably even since the time of Hadrian as the site of Christ's Passion.

Tribunus said...

Thanks Anon for the correction! Duly changed, accordingly!