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Commentary on a hymn from the missal of Abo

Canisius | 25 May, 2007 02:19

The hymn for Wednesday within the Octave of the Ascension (IX,241-243) has a few points of interest.

The second paragraph of the English translation begins with "Oh!" The Latin word is a puzzler: Papae! It could technically be the vocative of "Pope", but that seems an unlikely meaning. I have never come across this exclamation before--I wish I could afford a real dictionary of medieval Latin.

In the fifth paragraph of the English translation, we read,

Like Jacob, he passed over the Jordan, enduring sufferings of wondrous avail to us, and the staff he used was the cross.

This puzzled me for a while, but it is an allusion to Genesis 32:10, where Jacob says to God,

I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies.

In other words, Jacob left the promised land (crossed the Jordan) with nothing to his name but the staff in his hand and the shirt on his back, and has now come back with riches that God gave him in his wayfaring. The hymn seems to imply that Jacob leaving the promised land is like Jesus leaving heaven to sojourn on earth, which he did with no other wealth than his cross, but that his ascent into heaven with the treasury of his merits and of the saints released from limbo is like Jacob returning to the promised land with riches.

In the sixth paragraph of the English translation, we read that "the triple creation" trembles at the bidding and presence of Jesus; the Latin has "the triple regions". This is an allusion to Philippians 2:10,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth....

The triple or threefold regions are heaven, earth, and under the earth (hell).


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