HE GREAT Fulton J. Sheen gave excellent advice to teachers: “tear up your notes at the end of each semester.” That is: never stop learning. When I served as a member of the committee producing the Brébeuf hymnal, we learned something incredible: nobody has ever taken the trouble to name the Gregorian hymn melodies! (Somebody should write a dissertation addressing this problem.) We have spoken quite a bit about a certain ancient hymn which has no name. It could legitimately be called:
(1) Jam Christus Astra Ascenderat;
(2) Aurora Lucis Rutilat;
(3) Ad Coenam Agni Providi;
(4) Lucis Creator Optime;
(5) Vexilla Regis Inclyta;
(6) Te Lucis Ante Terminum;
(7) Te Saeculorum Principem;
(8) Sermone Blando Angelus;
…And so forth 1 and so on.
Whatever you call it, the melody for this Lenten hymn is quite ancient:
* PDF Download • ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT
—This organ accompaniment was written by Jeff Ostrowski.
* PDF Download • SINGER’S SCORE
—“Jam Christe Sol Justitiæ” (changed in 1631AD to “O Sol Salutis Intimis”).
O Sacred Head Surrounded
So “Jam Christe Sol Justitiæ” is an ancient Catholic hymn, and (above) it has been set to an ancient Catholic hymn melody which has no name. However, “O Sacred Head Surrounded”—O Caput Cruentatum—is a much more recent Catholic hymn. The history is rather complicated, so if you’re interested please consult the Brébeuf hymnal. The melody was originally a secular Waltz tune in 3/4 until it was adopted for Christian services. A Benedictine monk named Father Beatus Reiser published a plainsong arrangement in his 1940 publication: Laudes festivae: Lectionarium et Cantarium pro diversitate temporum et festorum. We will be singing this during Lent without accompaniment:
* PDF Download • O SACRED HEAD SURROUNDED (Latin)
—Edition: Father Beatus Reiser, Benedictine College of Sant’Anselmo (Rome).
* Mp3 Download • * Live Recording
—Recorded live at Saint Vitus Church (FSSP) in Los Angeles.
1. O Caput cruentátum, Spinárum ácie
Conspútum, verberátum, Orbátum spécie:
Fac meam serta spissa Cervícem quátiant,
Ut húmiles de missa Jam sensus nútriant.
2. O caro trita nodis Immánis mílitis:
Ignára licet fraudis Pungéndi fómitis:
Fac mea, labe tersa, Quæ sordent fúgiat,
Ac sánguine conspérsa Quæ nitent sápiat.
3. O pulchræ clavis palmæ Præfíxæ stípiti,
Dispensatríces almæ Amóris ínclyti:
Confígite me cruci Ut mihi móriar
Et mundo vivens luci Supérna lárgiar.
4. O Pedes perforáti Furóre nímio,
Per vias fatigáti In pacis núntio,
Fons scatens nostros pedes Ad opus fóveat,
Labórum tot hærédes Nos zelus úrgeat.
5. O cor transverberátum Longíni cúspide,
Quin flammæ conquassátum Ardóre válidæ,
In te da penetráre Cor meum pénitus
Tuósque respiráre Per sacros hálitus.
Father Beatus Reiser famously wrote to Pope Pius XI asking about instruments in Church, and he got an answer from the pontiff.
If you desire more Lenten hymns, please check out my 2018 article:
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 The special booklet given to the participants of the 2019 Sacred Music Symposium contained many pages explaining all those different hymn tune names, plus many more!