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Vexilla Regis prodeunt

Abroad the Regal Banners fly

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Vexilla Regis prodeunt:
    Fulget Crucis mysterium,
    Qua vita mortem pertulit,
    Et morte vitam protulit.
  2. Quæ vulnerata lanceæ
    Mucrone diro, criminum
    Ut nos lavaret sordibus,
    Manavit unda, et sanguine.
  3. Impleta sunt quæ concinit
    David fideli carmine,
    Dicendo nationibus:
    Regnavit a ligno Deus.
  4. Arbor decora et fulgida,
    Ornata regis purpura,
    Electa digno stipite
    Tam sancta membra tangere.
  5. Beata, cujus brachiis
    Pretium pependit sæculi,
    Statera facta corporis,
    Tulitque prædam tartari.
  6. O Crux ave spes unica,
    Hoc passionis tempore
    Piis adauge gratiam,
    Reisque dele crimina.
  7. Te, fons salutis Trinitas,
    Collaudet omnis spiritus:
    Quibus Crucis victoriam
    Lariris, adde præmium.
  1. Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
    Now shines the Cross’s mystery;
    Upon it Life did death endure,
    And yet by death did life procure.
  2. Who, wounded with a direful spear,
    Did, purposely to wash us clear
    From stain of sin, pour out a flood
    Of precious Water mixed with Blood.
  3. That which the Prophet-King of old
    Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
    Is now accomplished, whilst we see
    God ruling nations from a Tree.
  4. O lovely and refulgent Tree,
    Adorned with purpled majesty;
    Culled from a worthy stock, to bear
    Those Limbs which sanctified were.
  5. Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
    The wealth that did the world restore;
    The beam that did that Body weigh
    Which raised up hell’s expected prey.
  6. Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
    Now in this mournful Passion time,
    Improve religious souls in grace,
    The sins of criminals efface.
  7. Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring,
    May every soul Thy praises sing;
    To those Thou grantest conquest by
    The holy Cross, rewards apply.
Author: Venantius Fortunatus (530-609). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation by W. K. Blount. There are about forty translations, ten of which are in Mr. Shipley’s Annus Sanctus. According to Julian’s Dict. of Hymnology the above translation, dating from 1670, is by far the best rendering of the Vexilla Regis in common use; while J. M. Neale’s translation, in various forms, is more widely used than all others put together (p. 1221). Neale’s translation of the Original Text is in the Baltimore Manual of Prayers, p. 612. Liturgical Use: Vespers hymn from Passion Sunday to Wednesday of Holy Week. It is als the Vespers hymn on the Feast of the Finding (May 3) and of the Exaltation (Sept. 14) of the Holy Cross. The Vexilla Regis was originally intended as a Processional Hymn, and it is still used on Good Friday, when the Blessed Sacrament is carried from the Repository to the High Altar. Neale justly styles the Vexilla Regis “a world-famous hymn” and “one of the grandest in the treasury of the Latin Church” (Medieval Hymns p. 6). It was composed by Fortunatus on the occasion of the reception of a relic of the True Cross, which was sent by the Emperor Justin II to St. Radegunde. Read Monsignor Henry’s interesting article on this hymn in the Cath. Encycl.

  1. “The banners of the King come forth; brightly gleams the mystery of the Cross, on which Life suffered death, and by His death, obtained for us life.” Vexilla: lit. banners; here, the Cross. The vexillum was the old Roman cavalry standard, which, after Constantine, was surmounted by a Cross instead of by the Roman eagle. Mysterium: The Cross is by preeminence the symbol of man’s redemption. Qua, sc. cruce. Vita: the author of life, Christ. Vitam (æternam).
  2. “He was wounded by the cruel point of a spear, and there issued forth water and blood to cleanse us from the defilements of sin.” Quæ, sc. vita, from the preceeding stanza. Unda et sanguine: An allusion to,—sed unis militum lancea latus ejus aperuit, et continuo exivit sanguis et aqua (John 19, 34).
  3. “Now is fulfilled what David foretold in faithful song, saying to the nations: ‘God has reigned from a Tree.’” A ligno: “from the wood,” or, “from a tree.” The reference is to Ps. 95, 10: Dicite in gentibus quia Dominus regnavit a ligno. The words a ligno are not found in any present text of the Scriptures. There were, however, frequently quoted by the early Fathers; and St. Justin even accused the Jews of having erased them from the Hebrew text. If not a Scriptual, the a ligno is at least a liturgical expression still in use during Paschal time in the “Commemoration of the Cross,” in both Lauds and Vespers. “The words are probably a gloss by some early Christian scribe, transferred, in course of time, from the margin into the text” (Rev. J. M’Swiney, S.J., in his Translation of the Psalms and Canticles, p. 405). In this stanza, some texts read cecinit for concinit, dicens for dicendo, and regnabit for regnavit.
  4. “O beautiful and resplendent Tree adorned with the purple of the King, chosen to bear on thy worthy trunk, limbs so holy." Purpura, purple; here, the Most Precious Blood. Tangere: to touch, come in contact with.
  5. “O blessed Tree upon whose branches hung the ransom of the world; it was made the balance of the body, and snatched away the (expected) prey of hell.” The last two lines are obscure, and are variously rendered. Pretium: Empti enim estis pretio magno (I Cor. 6, 20). Statera, lit., a steelyard; a balance, beam, scales; also the value of a thing, price. “Statera corporis, the payment of the body having been made; others read facta est: many read statera sæculi, the price of the world” (March’s Latin Hymns, p. 254). The following translations are good:
    “The price of human-kind to pay,
    And spoil the spoiler of his prey.”
    “Balance sublime! upon whose beam
    Was weighed the ransom of mankind.”
    The last two stanzas of the hymn are not by Fortunatus.
  6. “Hail, O Cross, our only hope! In this Passiontide increase grace in the just, and for sinners, blot out their sins.”
  7. “May every spirit praise Thee, O Trinity, Thou fount of salvation; to whom Thou gavest the victory of the Cross, grant also the reward.”