Aeterne Rerum Conditor

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The words of the opening line of the first strophe of the office hymn which was historically assigned for Lauds for the Sundays from Jan. 14 to the first Sunday in Lent and from Oct. 1 to the first Sunday in Advent. The use of this hymn at the early canonical hours goes back to caesarius of arles (d. 542), who prescribed its use in his Rule (Sanctarum virginum regulae 69; S. Caesarii opera omnia 2:121). The text in the Roman Breviary of 1632 altered the older reading in the second, third, and seventh strophes. This hymn is generally acknowledged as an authentic work of St. ambrose. Augustine (Retract. 20.2; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 36:9798) quotes two lines of the fourth strophe and names Ambrose as the author. The thought and at times the very wording of several lines bear a striking similarity with passages in Ambrose's Hexaemeron (CSEL 32.1:201). The meter of the hymn is the iambic dimeter. In five successive strophes, Ambrose gives a mystical interpretation of the significance of the crowing of the cock (gallicinium ). Barring the purely scriptural animal metaphors, such as the lamb, the wolf, and the lion of Juda, the usage of this hymn is one of the few animal motifs in early Latin hymnology.

Bibliography: u. chevalier, Repertorium hymnologicum (Louvain-Brussels 18921921) 1:647. j. julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (New York 1957) 1:26. a. s. walpole, ed., Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, Eng. 192) 2734. a. m. britt, ed., The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (new ed. New York 1948). f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 3341. w. bulst, ed., Hymni Latini antiquissimi LXXV (Heidelberg 1956) 39, 162. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der latenische Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:5658.

[h. dressler]