HILE INSTRUCTING a certain lady in the faith, Fulton J. Sheen came to the lesson on the Trinity. He began by telling the lady: “The Holy Trinity is a mystery, and when I finish you won’t understand it.” After about twenty minutes, the lady said: “You’ve done a marvelous job, and now I understand the Trinity perfectly!” Sheen immediately replied: “Then I didn’t explain it correctly, because it should be a mystery.” 1 Many readers will recall Sheen’s statement while narrating a Mass filmed on Easter Sunday (1941) at Our Lady of Sorrows church in Chicago:
“The sign of the cross is made frequently by both the celebrant and the people thus recalling not only the Holy Trinity—the Father Who created us, the Son Who redeemed us, and the Holy Ghost Who sanctified us—but also the cross upon which Christ died.”
Below I demonstrate a very common theme in ancient Catholic hymns: CHRIST AS CREATOR.
Christ As Creator?
It would not be fitting for finite creatures to be capable of comprehending the nature of Almighty God. Archbishop Sheen has explained the Trinity with reference to love—and this is comforting, since our hearts require love. (The year 2020 seems particularly devoid of love, if I may say so.) Throughout the centuries, artists have attempted to depict the Most Holy Trinity; e.g. an extremely ancient picture of the Trinity looks strange in our eyes…perhaps someone like my colleague Wilfrid Jones could explain what’s going on there. Readers might recall that I recently posted 15th-century manuscript—scroll to the 2nd half of that article—wherein the Holy Ghost is depicted as a Man wearing a white Alb with green Stole:
Image Title: “Man of Sorrows Returns to the Trinitarian Throne”
Proof • From Catholic Tradition
A footnote on page 421 in the Saint Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal explains the “communicatio idiomatum” of the Most Holy Trinity. A good paraphrase of the Brébeuf footnote is given by Father Joseph Aquinas Byrnes (d. 1961), who served as a Chaplain during the First World War: “The external works of the Blessed Trinity are in common. Hence the act of creation may be ascribed to any of the three Persons, as it is here ascribed to Christ.” Saint John’s Gospel says of Christ: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made.” Beginning on page 418, the Brébeuf pew edition contains numerous settings of “Rex Sempiterne Domine,” from the 5th century. (The title after 1631AD became “Rex Sempiterne Caelitum.”) Notice how this hymn—1,500 years old—refers to JESUS CHRIST as our Creator:
Beginning on page 256, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “Jesu Nostra Redemptio,” from the 7th century. (The title after 1631AD became “Salutis Humanae Sator.”)
Beginning on page 526, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “Vexilla Regis Prodeunt,” from the 6th century.
Beginning on page 76, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “Auctor Beate Saeculi,” from the 18th century.
Beginning on page 4, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “A Solis Ortus Cardine,” from the 5th century.
Beginning on page 264, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “Jesu Redemptor Omnium,” from the 6th century. (The title before 1631AD had been “Christe Redemptor Omnium.”)
Beginning on page 180, the Brébeuf hymnal has numerous settings of “Conditor Alme Siderum,” from the 7th century. (The title after 1631AD became “Creator Alme Siderum.”)
Finally, if you look in a Roman Catholic book published in 1706AD, you will see a very free translation of the “Pange Lingua” of Saint Thomas Aquinas. This translation was reprinted many times in Catholic publications. Notice how it says: “ransom for the souls He made” speaking of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Page 668 of the Brébeuf hymnal has a beautiful hymn by Aurelius Prudentius—a Christian Poet who died in 413AD—which is called “Corde Natus Ex Parentis.” One of the verses says: Ipse jussit et creata, dixit ipse et facta sunt… (“By His Word was all created; He commanded and ’twas done…”) Saint John’s Gospel (1:10), speaking of JESUS CHRIST, says the following: In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit. (“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world treated Him as a stranger.”)
Many other ancient hymns contained in the Brébeuf hymnal could be cited when it comes to CHRIST AS CREATOR. For example, cf. the first verse of “Audi Benigne Conditor,” a 6th century hymn by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, which starts on page 88 in the Brébeuf hymnal. Another hymn from the 6th century is “Pange Lingua” (by Bishop Fortunatus), and its 4th stanza says: Missus est ab arce Patris | Natus, orbis Cónditor. (“This world’s Creator left His Father…”) See also verse 3 of “Quem Terra Pontus Aethera” and verse 1 of “O Gloriosa Domina.” Indeed, the list of examples is practically endless.
Holy Ghost As Creator
Here’s a Roman Catholic Hymnal from 1807 printed in America that refers to the Holy Ghost as our Creator:
The Brébeuf hymnal actually shows photographs of the ancient (Roman Catholic) Primers, which are extremely rare. Anyone interested in hymnody should immediately pick up a copy of the Brébeuf pew edition, if for no other reason than the photographs of a Roman Catholic Primer—in English and Latin—from 1599AD !!!
Permit me to close with “Cónditor 2 Alme Síderum” from a Medieval manuscript, which is marvelous in its beauty:
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 If you have not read Sheen’s explanation of the Holy Trinity (“The Divine Romance”), I highly recommend it. He draws a brilliant analogy to the human mind, as well as answering Plato’s question (four centuries before Christ): “If there is but one God, whom does He love?”
2 I included the correct accent, because “condítor”—accented on the penultimate syllable—means somebody who embalms dead bodies!