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Verbum Supernum Prodiens


The beginning of two famous hymns, a hymn on the Incarnation that was formerly sung at Matins in Advent, and a hymn that was historically sung at Lauds on the Feast of corpus christi and at the procession on that day. The first is thought to date variously from some time in the period between the 5th and the 8th centuries (Gaselee). Both the original and the revised form that was found in the Roman Breviary of 1632 consist of four verses, imitating the Ambrosian stanza. The Verbum supernum shows developed forms of assonance used in hymns from the 5th century on. The initial lines may have been influenced by a hymn of St. ambrose (Intende, qui regis Israel ), and its last line, in turn, became a model of several later hymns (including one in honor of St. Dominic). Its second stanza displays affinities to the equally ancient Iam lucis orto sidere and to the Carolingian hymn veni creator spiritus. The last two verses contain eschatological ideas, underlining the post-Ambrosian character of the hymn. The Biblical background (Mt 10.2627; 24.29; Mk 13.24) is identical with that of the celebrated dies irae, but is less elaborate. The author of the second hymn obviously chose as his model the older Incarnation hymn (above) and follows its first verse very closely, his choice being motivated perhaps by the fact that the Christmas preface serves also the Corpus Christi feast. The second stanza of the Corpus Christi hymn recalls the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. The third stresses the fact that the Eucharist was given under two species that correspond to the dual character of the nature of humanity. The fourth refers to the four stages of Redemption and Salvation. The fifth verse, perhaps the most famous, calls upon the Eucharist to grant strength in war and among enemies. The hymn, part of the Corpus Christi office, is believed to be a poem of thomas aquinas (or of one of his co-workers); however, it differs somewhat from the other hymns for the same feast.

Bibliography: Text. For the Incarnation hymn. Analecta hymnica 51:48. a. s. walpole, ed., Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, Eng. 1922) 302303. j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, MD 1957) 5053. For the Corpus Christi hymn. Analecta hymnica 50:588589. s. gaselee, comp. The Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse (Oxford 1937) 144. j. connelly, Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, MD 1957) 122124. Literature. a. s. walpole, op. cit. 302303. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 2:252. f. j. e. raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry from the Beginnings to the Close of the Middle Ages (Oxford 1953) 409, on the possibility that Thomas Aquinas abridged and improved an earlier Cistercian hymn.

[j. szÖvÉrffy]

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