"Verbum Supernum Prodiens"
The first line of two hymns celebrating respectively the Nativity
of Christ and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. The
hymnologist Daniel remarks on the obvious relation between the
Nativity and the Eucharist "by which through all ages the Word
made Flesh will dwell among us" as justifying the similar forms of
the two hymns (Thesaurus, I, 254).
The Nativity Hymn
In its unrevised form the second line was: "A Patre olim exiens".
The correctors of the Breviary under Urban VIII changed it into
its present Breviary form: "E Patris aeterni sinu". Sometimes
ascribed to St. Ambrose or to St. Gregory the Great, its
authorship is unknown. Mone supposed it to be of the second half
of the fifth century; but although Advent may possibly date back
that far, the hymn is probably much later. From the tenth century
it has been the usual hymn for Matins, although given in a few
manuscripts to Lauds. Originally the hymn was rhymed throughout in
couplets (with one exception). The revision under Urban VIII left
not a single strophe unchanged, in the removal of its many
unclassical prosodic features.
The Eucharist Hymn
Its second line is: "Nec Patris linquens dexteram". Left untouched
by the revisers of Urban VIII, it lacks classical prosody, is in
accentual rhythm, and rhymes alternately:
Verbum supernum prodiens
Nec Patris linquens dexteram,
Ad opus suum exiens
Venit ad vitae vesperam.
The Word of God proceeding forth
Yet leaving not the Father's side,
And going to His work on earth,
Had reached at length life's eventide.
The hymn is assigned to Lauds of Corpus Christi (q.v.) and is
commonly ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas. Some scholars compare the
Office of Corpus Christi with that of the older Cistercian
breviaries (1484-1674), and suggest that St. Thomas probably
borrowed (while revising) seven of the responsories of Matins from
it, and also probably the hymn "Verbum Supernum". In the
Cistercian Office the hymn comprised nine stanzas divided into two
hymns (for Matins and Lauds respectively), whereas now the hymn
has only six stanzas. The Cistercian hymn was sung to the melody
of the Advent hymn, "Verbum Supernum", whereas we now sing the
Eucharistic hymn to the different melody of the Ascensiontide
hymn, "Aeterne Rex Altissime". "It is very natural to suppose that
this choice (a common melody, as in the Cistercian Office, for
both of the Verbum Supernum hymns) was the primitive one" (Morin).
Transcribed by Charlie Martin
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc. Taken from the New Advent Web Page
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