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Rex sempiterne cœlitum

O Thou, the heaven’s eternal King

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Rex sempiterne cœlitum,
    Rerum Creator omnium,
    Æqualis ante sæcula
    Semper Parenti Filius.
  2. Nascente qui mundo Faber
    Imaginem vultus tui
    Tradens Adamo, nobilem
    Limo jugasti spiritum.
  3. Cum livor et fraus dæmonis
    Fœdasset humanum genus:
    Tu carne amictus, perditam
    Formam reformas Artifex.
  4. Qui natus olim e Virgine,
    Nunc e sepulcro nasceris
    Tecumque nos a mortuis
    Jubes sepultos surgere.
  5. Qui pastor æternus gregem
    Aqua lavas Baptimatis:
    Hæc est lavacrum mentium;
    Hæc est sepulcrm criminum.
  6. Nobis diu qui debitæ
    Redemptor affixus Cruci,
    Nostræ dedisti prodigus
    Pretium salutis sanguinem.
  7. Ut sis perenne mentibus
    Paschale, Jesu, Gaudium,
    A morte dira criminum
    Vitæ renatos libera.
  8. Deo Patri sit Gloria,
    Et Filio, qui a mortuis
    Surrext, ac Paraclito,
    In sempiternal sæcula.
  1. O Thou, the heavens’ eternal King,
    Creator, unto Thee we sing,
    With God the Father ever One,
    Co-equal, co-eternal Son.
  2. Thy hand, when first the world began,
    Made in Thin own pure image man,
    And linked to Adam, sprung from earth,
    A living soul of heavenly birth.
  3. And when by craft the envious foe
    Had marred Thy noblest work below,
    Clothed in our flesh, Thou didst restore
    The image Thou hadst made before.
  4. Once wast Thou born of Mary’s womb;
    And now, new-born from out the tomb,
    O Christ, Thou bidd’st us rise with Thee
    From death to immorality.
  5. Eternal Shepherd, Thou dost lave
    Thy flock in pure baptismal wave—
    That mystic bath, that grave of sin,
    Where ransomed souls new life begin.
  6. Redeemer, Thou for us didst deign
    To hang upon the Cross of pain,
    And give for us the lavish price
    Of Thine own Blood in sacrifice.
  7. Grant, Lord, in Thee each faithful mind
    Unceasing Paschal joy may find;
    And from the death of sin set free
    Souls newly born to life by Thee.
  8. To Thee, once dead, who now dost live,
    All glory, Lord, Thy people give,
    Whom, with the Father, we adore,
    And Holy Ghost forevermore.
Author: Ambrosian, 6th cent. Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation a cento. There are ten translations. First line of Original Text: Ad Cœnam Agni providi. Liturgical Use: Matins hymn from Low Sunday till Ascension Day. This hymn is a revision of the Original Text, Rex æterne Domine, the first line of which was, in the revision of 1568, altered to Rex sempiterne Domine (Benedictine Breviary Text); this in turn was altered in 1632 to the Roman Breviary Text, Rex sempiterne cœitum. In its original form, it contained sixteen stanzas. It is mentioned in the Rule of Aurelianus of Arles (d. 555) and by St. Bede (d. 735) in his De Arte Metrica.

  1. “O eternal King of the blessed, Creator of all things, Son ever equal to the Father, before all ages:” The hymn is addressed to the Son by whom all things were made (cf. John 1, 1-14; Col. 1, 12-22). Cœlitum, from Cœles, itis.
  2. “Thou as Creator, when the world was made, didst bestow upon Adam the image of Thy countenance, and didst yoke a noble spirit with the slime of the earth.” Imago: Faciamus homenem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostrum (Gen. 1, 26). Formavit igitur Dominus Deus homenem de limo terræ, et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vitæ, et factus est homo in animam viventem (Gen. 2, 7).
  3. “When the envy and deception of the devil had disfigured the human race, Thou, the Maker, clothed in flesh didst restore the lost form.” Formam, beauty. Livor = invidia, envy, malice.
  4. “As Thou wast once born of a Virgin, so art Thou now born from the tomb; and Thou dost bid us buried with Thee, to arise from the dead.” (cf. Rom. 6, 4.)
  5. “Thou art the eternal Shepherd who dost cleanse Thy flock in the waters of Baptism: that is the laver of souls, that is the sepulcher of sin.” The purification of the soul by washing is a common figure in the Old Testament. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me (Ps. 50, 4).
  6. “As Redeemer fastened to the Cross, which was long our due, Thou didst lavishly give Thy Blood as the price of our salvation.” Debitæ agrees with cruci; on account of our sins, the Cross (i.e., crucifixion) was long and justly due us.
  7. “That Thou, 0 Jesus, mayest be an everlasting Paschal joy to our hearts, deliver us re-born to life, from a dire death of sin.”