Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Patriarch, you say?

Before I start posting, I ought to explain this blog's title; in order to do this, I ought explain a few other things.

I have not always been the Roman Catholic I am now, in the murky and distant past, I used to be an Anglican, would you believe, and a card carrying Anglo-Catholic at that; part of this included being a member of the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary (the GSS; known by other names, which we need not dwell on here); this very illustriously titled guild was a guild for servers. Now; the GSS had it's own Office (a version of vespers, dating from the days when the Roman rule was that you had to fast from midnight before making you Communion, which many Anglo-Catholics followed, so obviously you couldn't have an evening Mass, so you had an evening Office instead, if you were in a devotional guild. The guild Office is rather lovely. And the most lovely thing of all is the Office Hymn, for which the tension was palpable. There'd be a pause, after the short chapter, and then the organist would quietly pre-intone the opening line, which the officiant would then sing... "when the patriarch was returning", and the there would be a burst of sound as the hymn was taken up "Crowned with triumph from the fray!"

Who was this patriarch? He was Abram, returning from victory in battle, and along the way he meets Melchisidek, who was the enigmatic king of Salem, who offered bread and wine, for he was priest of God most high. The hymn then takes the image of offering bread and wine, forward to the last supper, and the sacrificial nature of it, and the redeeming act of the Cross, eternally linked together. And then it moves forward again, to Masses offered, day by day upon our Altars. A most beautiful hymn, the text of which I shall give below.

But the blog is named thus after that hymn, which is a translation from a 12th century Cluniac breviary. The Latin of which, I would give my eye teeth for. It is possibly the finest openign line of a hymn, with the exception of "Light's abode celestial Salem". I daresay there shall be a few posts on my favourite hymns to come.

So; who am I? I am based in Hull, in the parish of St. Charles Borromeo. Where I have the honour of serving at the Altar, and helping in the parish in anyway I can. I am an active member of the Legion of Mary, as well as an experienced MC of both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite. I have a love for liturgy, it's development, it's history and it's future. I was safely brought up in the Anglican tradition, and have a great love and respect for it's patrimony, but find myself to take it's present state seriously, and therefore made the descision to convert 5 years ago. I am, at present discerning a vocation to the religious life, and to priesthood. I daresay more details will manifest themselves.

I also don't often read things before I send them, so be warned.

I also apologise in advance if what I write is deadly dull and of no interest to anyone but me.

The hymn:

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

Laud and honour to the Father,
Laud and honour to the Son
Laud and honour to the Spirit,
Ever three and ever one,
Consubstanial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run.


  1. Hoste dum victo triumphans
    Abraham revertitur,
    obvius fit magnus illi
    rex Salem Melchisedech,
    vina qui tanquam sacerdos
    atque panem protulit:

    quam vetus signabat umbra,
    clara lucet veritas;
    pontifex novus secundum
    ordinem Melchisedech,
    pane, sub vinoque corpus
    dat suum cum sanguine.

    quo creata cuncta verbo
    mira fit mutatio:
    panis in carnem, merumque
    in cruorem vertitur
    deficit senus, sed alta
    roborat mentem fides.

    qui semel Patri cruentam
    obtulit se victimam;
    singulis idem diebus,
    per ministrorum manus,
    rite nostris incruentus
    se sub aris immolat.

    ipsa quin astans sacratis
    sancta plebs altaribus,
    maximo Christum Parenti
    seque cum Christo litat
    carne posthac quam litavit
    et cruore pascitur.

    summa laus Deo Parenti
    qui creavit omnia;
    summa sit Nato, redemit
    qui suo nos sanguine;
    Flamini par, cujus almo
    confovemur halitu. Amen.

    (This is the version given by Cyril Pocknee in 'The French Diocesan Hymns and their Melodies' (Faith Press, 1954 ?); but be aware that the book is not without misprints, not all of which have been identified !)

    Your eye teeth - duly packaged - may be deposited in the Relics Chapel of Downside Abbey; or alternatively left with the Sacristan at Blackfriars, Oxford !

  2. Richard,

    Great name for a blog and a great hymn. Coblenz is my tune from the Westminster Hymn Book and this hymn was still sung at Euxton St Mary's in Lancashire up until 2006 - when th'eretic arrived and I left.

    Hope you are ok - see you at Downside?