Tag Archives: Advent

“Qui Creavit Coelum.”

This is a translation I have produced of an Advent hymn called “Qui Creavit Coelum.” As I understand it, the earliest manuscript in which we find it is from around 1425 A.D.; the hymn is also known as “The Song of the Nuns of Chester.” The original Latin text can be found here. I added some notes at the bottom. Nothing here is particularly scholarly; it’s simply a little devotional exercise that I wanted to share.

Happy Advent, friends.

The King who is ruling the ages,
He who created Heaven,
is being born in a stable.[1]

Joseph brings some rushes;
Mother wraps up the Child,
and places him in the manger.[2]

There among the animals
they place the Joy of the World.
He is fragrant beyond all.[3]

The Mother of the Lord suckles
and embraces the Little One;
she worships the Lord.[4]

Ask, Mother of the Lord,
that He give us Joy
in everlasting glory[5]

 


 

[1] I’ve taken the last line of this stanza first, for two reasons: (a) grammatically, “rex” as the subject fits naturally when rendered first in English, which makes good sense of the two relative clauses, each introduced by “qui;” and (b) by first emphasizing the transcendent nature of this King who is ruling time (present tense) and created matter (perfect tense) , the humility of His lowly birthplace is magnified in English. That this tiny Babe is ruling the centuries is a great mystery.
[2] “Paniculum” here is not a common word and means something like a tuft of reeds used for thatching a roof. I like the poetic image of Jesus being wrapped in rushes. It reminds me of Moses’s basket being placed in the rushes; so here, a rush-wrapped Baby Jesus is “ponit in praesepio.” The whole of Scripture – indeed, the whole of the world – is the story of Jesus Christ coming to save sinners like you and me.
[3] I like fragrant as a gloss for “dulcis” here: the Lamb of God is laid down next to animals He created, incarnate to do what they never could. He is here to take away the sins of the world. Thus He is “dulcis super omnia;” as an offering to God, He is “fragrant beyond all.”
[4] Mary worships God through her vocation as mother. What is done in faith, even the changing of diapers, is service to God. I think this stanza does a beautiful job of honoring the vocation of Motherhood. It also continues to emphasize the mystery of the Incarnation: That God could be breast-fed! How highly favored is Mary, the Mother of God?
[5] I do not believe in prayers to the saints. I have here translated the text as it is, not as I think it ought to be. I think this language could be understood apart from praying to the saints, but considering that this text comes to us from the nunnery of St. Mary, in 1425, I assume the author was indeed intending this as a prayer to Mary. Instead, I believe that scripture teaches that “rogat nobis mater domini” – that is, “The Mother of God is praying for us.” But that is another discussion, which I do not wish to participate in here.

I hope this was in some way a blessing to you this Advent.

Comments Off on “Qui Creavit Coelum.”

Filed under Christology, Devotional, Personal

Psalm 93 and Advent.

During our Advent vespers last Wednesday my church joined in singing Psalm 93. The first verse really caught my attention for its contrast to how I used to think of Advent and Christmas.

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength[.]

Why is this such an appropriate Psalm to sing during Advent? After all, it doesn’t describe the Christmas story at all. Jesus isn’t robed in the majesty that the Son of God deserves; He’s born in a humble stable, wrapped in rags, and laid in a repurposed feeding trough — from the beginning the God-man experiences suffering and rejection from His people. And “armed with strength?” An infant, cooing for His mother’s milk? Strength is not the word that springs to mind.

And yet this is the perfect Psalm to remind us that things are not always as they seem. God is not always in the whirlwind, or the fire, or the earthquake. God is in the still and the small — in the quiet burbling of the newborn Christ-child, God is robed in majesty and strength, for “He will save His people from their sins.” This baby will bring an end to all of the principalities and powers of darkness. He will deliver us from death, hell, and the devil. He will go to the cross, and there, veiled in suffering, God will set aside the record of our debt, our sin, by nailing it to the cross. This little boy, sleeping in the lap of the Mother of God, is the undoing of all of our evils, for He is the righteous one.

The Lord is robed in majesty, and armed with strength. Amen.

Comments Off on Psalm 93 and Advent.

Filed under Christology, Devotional