ROME, 25 MAY 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
Q: Can you confirm me that there is a new version of Adore Te
Devote (published by the Vatican already some years ago)? Is
this version compulsory?
R.M., Antwerp, Belgium
A: Effectively there are two variants of this beautiful hymn.
Most of the variations occur in the first two verses. The
substitution of the words "posset omni scélere" for "quit ab
omni scélere" in the second-to-last verse and "cupio" for "sitio"
in the closing one are practically the only other changes.
This hymn is usually attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas
(1225-1274) even though the earliest extant manuscript hails
from about 50 years after his death. References to Aquinas' hymn
in the writings of his Franciscan contemporary Jacopone da Todi
(1228-1306, author of the Stabat Mater) tend to confirm its
In spite of its saintly authorship the hymn never entered into
the official liturgy and was only saved from obscurity when Pope
St. Pius V included it among the prayers of thanksgiving after
communion in his missal of 1570. Paul VI incorporated it into
the Roman ritual, using a critical text established by the
liturgist Dom André Wilmart.
The variations in the first verse are:
"Adóro te devóte, latens Déitas, quae sub his figúris vere
látitas: tibi se cor meum totum súbicit, quia te contémplans
"Adóro devóte latens véritas / Te quae sub his formis vere
And the second verse:
"Visus, tactus, gustus in te fállitur, sed audítu solo tuto
créditur. Credo quidquid dixit Dei Fílius; nil hoc verbo
"Visus, tactus, gustus in te fállitur, sed solus audítus tute
créditur. Credo quidquid dixit Dei Fílius; nihil Veritátis verbo
Taking into account the rules of poetic meter, it would appear
that the second version is probably closer to the original,
although the other version has been consecrated by centuries of
There are more than 16 known English translations, sometimes of
one, sometimes of the other version. One translation of the
common version goes:
"O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.
"Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,
Than Truth's own word there is no truer token."
On the other hand, the rendering by great Jesuit poet Gerald
Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is partly based on the other variant.
Likewise, it so closely imitates the original meter as to allow
it to be sung to traditional chants.
"Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen, Who thy glory hidest 'neath
these shadows mean; Lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is
bowed, Tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.
"Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern thee fail; Faith, that
comes by hearing, pierces through the veil. I believe whate'er
the Son of God hath told; What the truth hath spoken, that for
truth I hold."
Debate regarding the text is usually between those who prefer "latens
veritas" to "latens Deitas." There are good arguments for both
choices. Thus, Father George Rutler defends "latens veritas"
"The 'Adoro te' does not speak of the 'hidden God' but of the
'hidden truth' that is God. After Plato in his cave approached
divinity "'neath these shadows mean,' and Moses better
approached the Living Presence 'shrined within the cloud,' the
eucharistic Church discerns the Lord himself really present, by
an activity of faith upon reason. Saint Thomas sings the
intricate economy of substance and accident at the heart of the
'sacrament of sacraments.'"
On the other hand, in a series of beautiful meditations on the
text of this hymn (ZENIT 2004), Capuchin Father Raniero
Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, made the
"There is another reason that impels us to keep to the
traditional text. This, like other venerated Latin liturgical
hymns of the past, belongs to the community of the faithful that
have sung it for centuries, have made it their own and almost
re-created it, no less than to the author who composed it,
often, however, remaining anonymous. The popular text is no less
valuable than the critical text and it is with it, in fact, that
the hymn continues to be known and sung in the whole Church.
"In every stanza of the Adoro Te Devote there is a theological
affirmation and an invocation which is the prayerful response of
the soul to the mystery. The theological truth recalled in the
first stanza refers to the manner of the presence of Christ in
the Eucharistic species. The Latin expression 'vere latitas' is
charged with meaning, it means: he is hidden, but he really is
(where the accent is on 'vere,' only the reality of the
presence) and it also means: he truly is, but hidden (where the
accent is on 'latitas,' on the sacramental character of this
It is hard to decide which view is correct. Even Wilmart's
critical text is not accepted by all scholars. Both
alternatives, however, as Father Rutler and Father Cantalamessa
show, offer sublime praise to the Blessed Sacrament.
Is there an obligatory version? The "Adoro devote" probably has
more weight in official texts, although the recently published
Compendium Eucharisticum presents the traditional "Adoro te
I would therefore conclude that either variant may be
legitimately used according to local custom.
Follow-up: The "Adoro Te Devote" [6-1-2010]
Related to our comments on the Adoro Te Devote (see May 25),
an Indiana reader had inquired about the use of Latin in
vernacular Masses. He asked: "It was stated that Latin may be
used for the common prayers of the Mass including the Kyrie. The
Kyrie is Greek. Does this mean that the equivalent Latin may be
substituted? Also, I have heard Latin being used for
introduction to the readings when the readings, including the
Gospel, were in English. Also, at the conclusion of the
Eucharistic Prayer (in English), I have heard Latin. Is this
It is a common faux pas to forget that Kyrie Eleison ("Lord,
have mercy") is a Greek text within the Latin Mass, although it
could also be legitimately considered
like blasé, chic, rendezvous and café in English
as a foreign import which has gained full citizenship. In this
sense the liturgical Latin equivalent for Kyrie Eleison would be
Kyrie Eleison. The Vatican occasionally uses different Latin
invocations in some litanies and the prayer of the faithful but
never in the Kyrie.
In general we can say that it is permitted to use Latin for
the introduction to the readings. This is especially useful for
international groups and allows everybody to sing the proper
responses. The same could be said for other moments, such as the
memorial acclamation, provided of course that most of the
assembly is familiar with the Latin text.
The use of Latin for the doxology in vernacular recitation
could be permitted to allow it to be easily sung, although the
same melody usually works just as well for most vernacular
As a general rule, however, multiple languages should not be
used for the Eucharistic Prayer. If, for example, priests from
several countries concelebrate for a congregation of one
predominant language, then it would be preferable that Latin be
used for the entire Eucharistic Prayer and the Our Father, with
the rest of the Mass in the vernacular.