Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ascension Day

OK, back to seasonal appropriateness now. Kind of. Because although the Catholic Church in England and Wales no longer celebrates today as Ascension Day, and instead transfers it to Sunday on the principle that it's apparently unreasonable to expect people to go to Mass more than once in a week... despite that, well, today is Ascension Day. It just is. It's 40 days after Easter. You can't play around with that without giving the impression that you don't understand how the church year works, how sacred time and calendar time intersect, or really anything about the human mind at all.

Anyway, here is J.M. Neale's translation of the fifth-century hymn Aeterne Rex altissime. I love the fourth verse in particular.

Eternal Monarch, King most high,
whose blood hath brought redemption nigh,
by whom the death of Death was wrought,
and conquering Grace's battle fought.

Ascending to the throne of might,
and seated at the Father's right,
all power in heaven is Jesus' own,
that here his manhood had not known.

That so, in nature's triple frame,
each heavenly and each earthly name,
and things in hell's abyss abhorred,
may bend the knee and own him Lord.

Yea, angels tremble when they see
how changed is our humanity;
that flesh hath purged what flesh had stained,
and God, the flesh of God, hath reigned.

Be thou our joy and strong defense,
who art our future recompense:
so shall the light that springs from thee
be ours through all eternity.

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
all praise to thee let earth accord,
who art, while endless ages run,
with Father and with Spirit one.