Today is the feast of St. Ambrose, a Doctor of the Church. His is an exciting life included a whirlwind conversion (from catechumen to bishop in one week), a confrontation with the Roman Emperor Theodosis, and writing some of the Church’s most beautiful reflections on Christ, often in response to Arian heretics. Ambrose was also the composer of several awesome prayers and hymns, including the subject of this post, “Veni, Redemptor Gentium,” more commonly heard today as the Advent song “Savior of the Nations Come.” “Savior of the Nations Come” is a sort of third-generation translation from Ambrose’s Latin original. Martin Luther (of Protestant Revolution fame) translated it into German from Latin (“Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”). The German was translated into English by William Reynolds in the mid-1800s. It remains a staple in Lutheran Advent liturgies today, and is also included in various traditional Catholic hymnals.
I first heard the song a few years ago while teaching at a Catholic parish school in Maryland. It stayed with me, and I decided that I wanted to find the original Ambrosian verses. I did, and later translated them from Latin into English on my first blog, Ibidem.
I am republishing the translation here, for your reflection. I have included Ambrose’s original Latin, as well as my verse translation. I have tried to keep up a rhyme scheme, but loose it every so often.
I pray that, this Advent, we might all draw closer to the Savior of the World.
Veni, redemptor gentium,
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.
Non ex virili semine,
sed mystico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum est caro
fructusque ventris floruit.
Alvus tumescit Virginis,
claustrum pudoris permanet,
vexilla virtutum micant,
versatur in templo Deus.
Procedat e thalamo suo,
pudoris aula regia,
geminae gigas substantiae
alacris ut currat viam.
Aequalis aeterno Patri,
carnis tropaeo cingere,
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Praesepe iam fulget tuum
lumenque nox spirat novum,
quod nulla nox interpolet
fideque iugi luceat.
Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
Come now, Redeemer of the Earth,
Reveal to us the Virgin’s birth;
Every age is thus amazed:
so fit a birth our God has made.
Not though a man’s conception,
But by mystic exhalation
The Word of God is thus made flesh
And in a womb, fruit prosperous.
Virgin’s womb so soon expanded,
Her monkish modesty defended,
The banner of the angels fluttered,
In this temple God thus abided.
She proceeded from her chamber,
Modest palace of the queen mother,
A giant thus with natures two
Eager to run his course right through.
Equal to the eternal Father,
Girded in the fleshy armor,
In the weakness of our bodies
Strength in all the virtues lasting.
Now your crib still shines as bright
And newer light blows in the night,
for no night can falsify
what faithful faith can clarify.
Thus, Christ, most faithful king,
To you and the Father, glory we sing,
With the Spirit, the Paraclete,
In eternal eternity, complete. AMEN!
For Further Reading:
John P. Bequette, “St. Ambrose of Milan” – Article about St. Ambrose and his importance in the Church.
http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/336 – Provides a fascinating history of the song and those who have translated it, as well as the musical notation used for it.