19 January 2017

From the Votive Office of All Holy Angels


Many are familiar with the translation of the office hymn entitled Christ, the Fair Glory of the Holy Angels. The original Latin is Christe sanctorum decus angelorum and is generally ascribed to Rabanus Maurus.  As near as I can discern the following is Athelstan Riley's original version of his translation:
CHRIST, the fair glory of the holy angels,
thou who hast made us, thou who o'er us rulest,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.

Send thine archangel Michael to our succour;
peacemaker blessèd, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.

Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty;
herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals,
spurn the old serpent, watching o'er the temples
where thou art worshiped.

Send thine archangel Raphael, the restorer
of the misguided ways of men who wander,
who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body
with thine anointing.

May the blest mother of our God and Saviour,
may the assembly of the saints in glory,
may the celestial companies of angels
ever assist us.

Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessèd, be thou our preserver;
thine is the glory which the angels worship,
veiling their faces.

By way of example, the text above is not the version one would find in two recent editions of the Episcopalian hymnals in the USA.  What one finds today is often a 'composite' translation that uses Riley's translation as a starting point, but even though a composite translation may be very successful in a parish when sung to Sarum plainsong or to the tune CŒLITES PLAUDANT (Rouen), translations rarely capture the fulness of the original hymn in Latin or Greek.  

If one cannot read the original, the best one can do is have several different translations to help one understand the depth of the original text.   

I think very few are familiar with the Copeland translation of Christe sanctorum decus angelorum which appeared in the Roman Breviary translated and edited by John, Marquess of Bute.   At the moment I am very taken with the Copeland translation and am praying it on behalf of the persecuted Church and Christians everywhere who are in need or dire circumstance:


CHRIST ! of the holy Angels light and gladness,
Maker and Saviour of the human race,
O may we reach the world unknown to sadness,
The blessed mansions where they see Thy Face !

Angel of peace, may Michael to our dwelling
Down from high Heaven in mighty calmness come,
Breathing serenest peace, wild war dispelling
With all her sorrows to the infernal gloom.

Angel of might, may Gabriel swift descending,
Far from our gates our ancient foes repel,
And his own triumphs o'er the world defending,
In temples dear to Heaven return and dwell.

Angel of health, may Raphael lighten o'er us,
To every sick-bed speed his healing flight,
In times of doubt direct the way before us,
And through life's mazes guide our steps aright.

The Virgin, harbinger of peace supernal,
Mother of Light, with all the Angelic train,
Heaven's glittering host, court of the King Eternal,
All Saints be with us, till that bliss we gain.

Be this by Thy thrice holy Godhead granted,
Father, and Son, and Spirit ever blest ;
Whose glory by the Angel host is chanted,
Whose Name by all the universe confest.

Rev. W.J. Copeland, translator

Office in Honour of All Holy Angels, for Mondays