Creator Of The Stars Of Night “Alme Siderum” (Traditional Advent Hymn)
Advent Hymn from Ambrosian, 6th or 7th Century
Conditor alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.
Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium.
Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
Virginis matris clausula.
Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
nutu fatentur subdita.
Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.
Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting Light;
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear thy servants when they call.
Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death an universe,
Hast found the med’cine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruin’d race.
Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a Virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.
At whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow
And things celestial thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.
O thou, whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From ev’ry insult of the foe.
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honour, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally. Amen.
For many traditional Catholics, Advent would not be Advent if introducted by any other hymn. It is well nigh impossible for even the best of poets to find a formula that really corresponds to the first line of the Latin text. The Latin “sidus” (“siderium”) means more than just a “star.” It includes the stars in the heavens, and of course, also the sun, moon, planets and all the heavenly constellations and comets and meteors. These are the cosmic elements that appear in later stanzas of the hymn. For the ancients, these mysterious heavenly bodies that moved about and that had their seasonal cycles of waxing and wanning and that in some unfathomable way could affect he course of human destiny. Indeed; in a manner of speaking within the celestial plane, these heavenly bodies were perhaps living beings.
The opening line of this Advent hymn should make us think of the great array of all the powerful cosmic bodies that figure in those Eschatological texts of scripture where the whole of the created universe responds to the presence of God. The point of reference is not some lovely nightfall scene studied with gentle glimmering stars, but rather that “Great Day” when (“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken”) (Matthew 24:29). Indeed, this Advent hymn, if we really look at it, is something of a “Dies irae” in a less strident mode.
In stanza three, the world’s evening draws to a close. If we recognize in the last three lines of this stanza the allusion to verse six of Psalm 19, the verse that occurs so frequently in the Christmastide cycle: (“And He; as a bridegroom coming forth from the bridal chamber, rejoices as a giant to run his course”) So just when the world seems doomed to certain extinction, the Sun comes forth in a blaze of light and begins its paschal journey across the whole of human life and experience.
This imagery is especially appropriate towards the beginning of the First Sunday of Advent and into the beginning of December, when nights are growing progressively longer and longer, until upon the arrival of the Winter Solstice just before the Solemnity of Christmas, then the inexorable onslaught of darkness is reversed with the Birth of Christ, the Sun of Justice, who now begins to run His course over the whole of our existence.
Advent Reflection by the late Father Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO, Cistercian monk of Gethsemani Abbey, in Trappist, Kentucky U.S.A.