It’s Friday: Crux Fidelis

For the past several years on Good Friday, during the veneration of the cross, we have sung an ancient hymn which belongs to that liturgy. To think, we sing the same words (we do it in Latin) to the same melody, which has been sung by the Church every year for over a millennium.

It is a beautiful hymn, written by Venantius Fortunatus in about the year of our Lord 570.

Here is a sample in English.

And one in Latin.

CRUX fidelis, inter omnes, arbor una nobilis; nulla talem silva profert, flore, fronde, germine. Dulce lignum, dulci clavo, dulce pondus sustinens! FAITHFUL Cross! above all other, one and only noble Tree! None in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit thy peers may be; sweetest wood and sweetest iron! Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!
PANGE, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis, et super Crucis trophaeo dic triumphum nobilem, qualiter Redemptor orbis immolatus vicerit.  

De parentis protoplasti fraude Factor condolens, quando pomi noxialis morte morsu corruit, ipse lignum tunc notavit, damna ligni ut solveret.

Hoc opus nostrae salutis ordo depoposcerat, multiformis proditoris ars ut artem falleret, et medelam ferret inde, hostis unde laeserat.

Quando venit ergo sacri plenitudo temporis, missus est ab arce Patris natus, orbis, Conditor, atque ventre virginali carne factus prodiit.

Vagit infans inter arcta conditus praesepia: membra pannis involute Virgo Mater alligat: et manus pedesque et crura stricta cingit fascia.

LUSTRA sex qui iam peracta tempus implens corporis, se volente, natus ad hoc, passioni deditus, Agnus in crucis levatur immolandus stipite.

En acetum, fel, arundo, sputa, clavi, lancea: mite corpus perforatur, Sanguis, unda profluit terra, pontus, astra, mundus, quo lavantur flumine!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta, tensa laxa viscera, et rigor lentescat ille, quem dedit nativitas, ut superni membra Regis miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti ferre saeculi pretium, atque portum praeparare nauta mundo naufrago, quem sacer cruor perunxit, fusus Agni corpore.

SING, my tongue, the Savior’s glory; tell His triumph far and wide; tell aloud the famous story of His body crucified; how upon the cross a victim, vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden, man had sunk in Satan’s snare, when our pitying Creator did this second tree prepare; destined, many ages later,that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed when for sin He would atone; to the serpent thus opposing schemes yet deeper than his own; thence the remedy procuring, whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness of the sacred time drew nigh, then the Son, the world’s Creator, left his Father’s throne on high; from a virgin’s womb appearing, clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger, lo, a tender babe He lies! see his gentle Virgin Mother lull to sleep his infant cries! while the limbs of God incarnate round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood in our mortal flesh attain: then of His free choice He goeth to a death of bitter pain; and as a lamb, upon the altar of the cross, for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches! see the thorns upon His brow! nails His tender flesh are rending! see His side is opened now! whence, to cleanse the whole creation, streams of blood and water flow.

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches, to embrace thy sacred load; oh, relax the native tension of that all too rigid wood; gently, gently bear the members of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy, the world’s Victim to sustain. harbor from the raging tempest! ark, that saved the world again! Tree, with sacred blood anointed of the Lamb for sinners slain.

An English form which follows the original can be found on Page 122 here – http://anglicanhistory.org/music/gradual/gradual.pdf

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2 Responses to It’s Friday: Crux Fidelis

  1. Beautiful words … not familiar with them in the Catholic church. Maybe our parents sang it in Latin?

  2. bgpery says:

    I’m not surprised you haven’t heard it. And sorry.
    Our parents…. If you look in any of the old hand missals used before 1965 it’s there. Without getting into details it’s still an official part of the Good Friday liturgy. It saddens me that so much beauty seems to have been lost.

    Have a fruitful Holy Week.

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