Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Solis Ortus Cardine

From the hinge of the rising sun
To the farthest edge of the earth
Let us sing to Christ our lord
Born of the virgin Mary.

Blessed creator of the world
Assuming the body of a slave,
Freeing our flesh with his own flesh
That what he made might not be lost.

A close-barred maiden's inner parts
Were breached by the grace of heaven;
Burdened was the maiden's womb
With secrets that she did not know.

Quickly the home of her chaste breast
Became the temple of the Lord;
Untouched without knowledge of men,
By the word she conceived a son.

She laboured and then brought forth
The One foretold by Gabriel;
John, still in his mother's womb,
Sensed it, as he leapt with joy.

He bore with lying in the hay,
He did not scorn the manger,
And on a little milk He fed,
Who let no bird in want of food.

The heavenly choir was glad
And angels of God's coming sang,
To the shepherds they did unfold
The Shepherd and Maker of all things.

O Herod, you impious foe,
Why fear the coming of Christ?
Earthly realms he does not seize,
The kingdom of heaven he gives.

The wise men journeyed towards the star
Which led them on their coming.
Seeking one Light with another,
Their gifts proclaimed him God.

A multitude of mothers cried out,
Weeping at their children's deaths;
Slain by the tyrrant in thousands,
Sacrificial victims for Christ.

Into the streams of pure water
Entered the heavenly Lamb;
Taking on Himself the sins of the world,
With his cleansing we were absolved.

By miracles did he give proof
That he had God as father;
Healing those sick in body,
Bringing back the dead to life.

Yet new kinds of powers!
The water in the ewers turned red,
And, when ordered to pour with wine,
The source of the flow was changed.

On bended knee a centurion
Begged for his servant's health;
The burning ardour of his faith
Put out the fever's flames.

Peter walked forward through the waves,
Held fast by Christ's right hand.
Where nature denied there was a way
His faith a footpath made.

On his fourth malodorous day,
Lazarus recovered his life,
And, once freed from the shackles of death,
Became heir unto himself.

Streams of flowing gore were stopped,
With one touch to His robes;
The running tears of the suppliant
Dried up the torrents of blood.

Lifeless in all his body,
But suddenly commanded to rise,
A sick man could on his own again
Carry away his bed.

Then that hangman Judas,
Having dared betray his master,
Peace did offer with a kiss,
Which came not from his heart.

The truthful was betrayed to liars
The pious was scourged by the godless,
The untainted was nailed to the cross,
Sharing his lot with thieves.

As Sabbath passed, anointing myrrh
Was brought by women of His fellowship
To whom an angel said: He lives,
He lies no longer in the tomb.

Come let us with dulcet hymns
Join to sing of the overthrow
Of Tartarus by the triumph of Christ
Who, though sold, redeemed us all.

The zeal of the envious serpent,
The jaws of the fearsome lion,
God's only son did trample down
Then rise back into the heavens.

The original hymn, attributed to Coelius Sedulius, a poet of the early 5th century.  As sung in the office for Christmas day they stop with the eighth verse (or there about, not all of the sources agree on the text).  In the Latin original each verse begins with a subsequent letter of the alphabet and a summary of the life of Jesus is given.   I included the entire hymn as translated in the modern period.
The hymn has been set a number of times. You can search through the youtubes to find performances of those by Binchois and Palestrina and others.  Here's a recent setting by Alan Charleton,

The William Byrd Singers and The Meridian Singers
Alan Charleton, conductor 

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