Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adoro te devote

Peter Paul Rubens 1577 - 1640
The Triumph of Divine Love / Triunfo del Amor Divino
1625 - 1626
Oil on wood
86,5 cm x 91 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

In 1625 the Archduchess Isabel Clara Eugenia commissioned Rubens to design a series of 16 tapestries for the Monasterio de las Descalzas de Madrid

Each tapestry was a variation on some aspect of the Eucharist

In this work The Triumph of Divine Love, the female figure personifies Love or Charity

An angel holds the fiery heart of Divine Love

Another important figure standing on the chariot is the Pelican, bleeding and feeding its young with its blood. This of course represents the Eucharist

The bleeding Pelican feeding its young with its blood has been historically a representation of the Eucharist, as well as the Passion. See below

A Pelican Bleeding to Feed Its Young
18th century
Wooden sculpture
39cm H ; 69cm L ; 38cm P
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers

In the Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote ascribed to St Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 7 March 1274) the last two verses refer to the Pelican:

Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen

Pelican of mercy, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:
Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured
Might from all transgression have the world restored.

Jesu, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of Thee. Amen

There are of course two beautiful translations into English of Adoro te devote. The first is by the English Victorian Jesuit who was a Classics scholar and Star of Balliol, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross Thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here Thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with Thy glory's sight. Amen

The other English translation is by the English convert and priest Father Edward Caswall (1814 - 1874) a member of Cardinal Newman`s Oratory in Birmingham, and by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Caswall is of course a well known name in the British Catholic hymnals

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