2016-02-21 Notes from the Bench

“Ave verum, corpus”

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

 

Text:

Ave verum corpus,
natum 
de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine
cuius
latus perforatum 
fluxit
aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
O Jesu dulcis, O Jesu pie,
O Jesu, fili Mariae.
Miserere mei. Amen.

 

Translation:

Hail, true Body,
born of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O holy Jesus,
O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

 

Beginning this Sunday, and for the following three Sundays, our chamber choir will be singing a setting of the Eucharistic hymn, “Ave verum, corpus” during communion. This short hymn is a meditation on the belief in Christ’s real presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist and commemorates his redemptive sacrifice. John 19:34 is referenced in this text: “instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” “Ave verum, corpus” has been used liturgically during Benediction, during the Offertory, and as a private devotion during the Elevation of the Host.

The history this hymn can be traced back to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Sources differ on the authorship of this hymn. A fourteenth-century manuscript says “Pope Innocent composed the following salutation…” referring to the text, “Ave verum, corpus” which may refer to Pope Innocent III, (reigning from 1198-1216), Pope Innocent IV (reigning from 1243 -1254), or Pope Innocent VI (reigning from 1352-1362).

Musical settings of this hymn include Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and motets written by numerous composers from the eighteenth century up to the present day. Our chamber choir will sing four lesser-known settings of this hymn: a setting by romantic-era composer, Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) on February 21, and settings by living composers, Bill Heigen on February 28, John Paul Rudoi on March 6, and Imant Raminsh (b. 1943) on March 13.

 

 

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