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The Order of Saint Benedict

Gemma Caelestis (hymn)
Laeta Quies (sequence)

 

Latin Poems
in Honor of Saint Benedict
with English Translations


Based on the events of Benedict's life as recorded by Saint Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, the office hymn, Gemma caelestis, is perhaps to be attributed to Saint Peter Damian (1007-72). It calls to mind the life and example of Benedict, the father of western monasticism.

The Sequence, Laeta quies, is of even less certain origin. "It first appeared in a Benedictine Missal of the Cassinese Congregation in 1506" --Matthew Britt OSB, ed., Gemma Caelestis (Beatty, PA: Archabbey Press, 1926) 37.

[ms. Benedict, DE]

  

Gemma Caelestis

Gemma caelestis pretiosa Regis,
Norma iustorum, via monachorum,
Nos ab immundi, Benedicte, mundi
Subtrahe caeno.

Tu solum spernens, cor in astra figens
Cogis heredes fieri parentes.,
Vas Deo plenum, repardare fractum
Promeruisti.

Magnus in parvis eremita membris
Vincis aetatem, superas laborem,
Arcta Districtae rudimenta vitae
Fervidus imples.

Strage saxorum puerum sepultum,
Mox ut orasti, prece suscitasti:
Sensus hinc carni, caro sanitati
Redditur aeque.

Iure sub blandae specie columbae
Nesciam fellis animam sororis
Summa stellati penetrare caeli
Culmina cemis.

Ipse post clarum referens triumphum,
Celsa devicto petis astra mundo:
Luce flammantem radiante callem
Pallia sternunt.

Gloria Patri, Genitaeque Proli,
Et tibi, compar utriusque semper
Spiritus alme, Deus unus, omni
Tempore saecli. Amen.

Benedict, precious jewel of the King of Heaven,
Model for the just and way for monks,
Call us forth
From this troubled world.

Spurning what was base,
    you set your heart on the stars.
You made heirs of your parents,
For you, God's perfect vessel,
Were fit to repair a shattered one.

Great among a small company of hermits
You overcame your youthfulness
    and excelled in your labor
As you fervently undertook
The narrow beginnings of the strict life.

When a youth was buried
    in the rubble of a collapsing wall,
He was raised up as soon as you prayed;
With your prayer you restored
Sense to his flesh and health to his body.

You saw your sister's soul, unknown to sin,
Attain the very heights
Of starry heaven
In the form of a gentle dove.

After this marvel you in turn
Sought starry heights, having mastered this life;
Your cloak shone forth
A flaming path charged with light.

Glory to the Father, to the Only Begotten,
And to you, loving Spirit,
Always their equal,
One God for all ages. Amen.

Laeta Quies

Laeta quies [*dies] magni ducis,
Dona ferens novae lucis,
Hodie recolitur.

Caris datur piae menti,
Corde sonet in ardenti,
Quidquid foris promitur.

Hunc per callem orientis
Admiremur ascendentis
Patriarchae speciem.

Amplum semen magnae prolis
Illum fecit instar solis
Abrahae persimilem.

Corvum cernis ministrantem,
Hinc Eliam latitantem
Specu nosce parvulo.

Elisaeus dignoscatur,
Cum securis revocatur
De torrentis alveo.

Illum Joseph candor morum,
Illum Jacob futurorum
Mens effecit conscia.

Ipse memor suae gentis,
Nos perducat in manentis.
Semper Christi gaudia.

Amen. (T.P. Alleluia.)


Joyful rest [or *day] of our leader, that brings the gift of a new light, we commemorate you today.

Grace is given the loving soul, may our ardent heart be united to the songs of our lips.

By the radiant way going up to the east, let us admire our Father rising to heaven, equal to the patriarchs.

His innumerable posterity, figure of the sun, made him like to Abraham.

See the crow serving him and recognize hence Elias hiding in a little cave.

Recognize Eliseus, when he bids return the axe from beneath the current.

It is Joseph through his life without stain;
it is Jacob bringing future things to mind.

May he be mindful of his people, and may he lead us till we behold with him the eternal joys of Christ.

Amen. [P.T. Alleluia.]


-- "Supplement for the Order of Saint Benedict" (Saint Andrew Daily Missal, Brugge: Desclee de Brouwer & Co., 1957, p. 21-22).

*Laeta dies, if the feast is transferred to another date and on 11 July.


 

"Saint Gregory the Great writing the Dialogues," manuscript illustration used for educational purposes only.


 

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Rev. 09.vii.2005 / © Copyright 1996-2009, OSB, MN 56321-2015 / www.osb.org/gen/gemma.html