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Rector Potens, Verax Deus


The office hymn that was traditionally prescribed for Sext in the Roman breviary. Its authorship is usually ascribed to St. ambrose. It resembles his acknowledged hymns in that it is strictly quantitative, in iambic dimeter, and yet has a well-marked rhythm based on accent. It is found in many of the Ambrosian MSS; it is acknowledged as genuine by Biraghi and is included by Dreves in his list of 18 authentic hymns of Ambrose. However, Walpole defends it as not unworthy of Ambrose in thought and expression, arguing that its brevity (two stanzas instead of the eight usual in the hymns of Ambrose) is evidence against its genuineness. The fact that it is not included in the lists of caesarius of arles and of aurelian of rÉomÉ or in the MSS of the early hymnaries also militates against Ambrose's authorship. This hymn seems to be by the same author as the Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus (Terce) and the rerum deus tenax vigor (None). Of these three, Raby states that if Ambrose did not compose them, they are the work of a poet of equal genius. Szövérffy, however, feels that Simonetti's dictum that no evidence exists for Ambrosian authorship is not sufficiently supported. Rector potens, sung about noon, invokes God as the mover of day in its course and the source of the changes in nature. Referring to the noonday heat, it asks God to quench the fires of strife and the heat of our passions and to grant us bodily health and peace of heart.

Bibliography: g. m. dreves, Aurelius, Ambrosius, "Der Vater des Kirchengesanges" (St. Louis 1893). j. julian, ed., A Dictionary of Hymnology (New York 1957) 953. j. mearns, Early Latin Hymnaries (Cambridge, Eng. 1913) 72. m. britt, ed., The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (new ed. New York 1948). a.s. walpole, ed., Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, Eng. 1922) 2126, 110111. m. simonetti, "Studi sull'innologia popolare cristiana dei primi secoli," Atti d. Accad. nazionale dei Lincei: Memorie 4 (1952) 341484. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 3244. j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster MD 1957) 3233. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:51, 214.

[a. j. kinnirey]

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