Monday, 30 June 2014

Ave spes et salus: a hymn to Maria.

Whoever thinks that the history of Christian dogmas is one of peace and serenity is utterly wrong: monks and bishops fighting with each other at synods – and not only with words.  Often the divisions were not only ideological, but also ethnical and theological points were used to underline ones background.
One of the issues was the status of Maria. Maria worship started in Egypt in the second century, which explains why she has taken over traits of Isis. Isis was originally an Egyptian goddess, but in the Hellenistic period, her cult spread over the Roman Empire as one of the many mystery cults. Indeed, Christianity was one of these cults too and the formation of this religion cannot be understood without knowledge of its socio-religious context. In popular devotion Maria had risen to the status of goddess, which is theologically impossible, but somehow her importance had to be theologically defined. At the first council of Ephesus in 431 she got the status of `Theotokos’ Mother of God. Much to the dislike of Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, and his followers. They were of the opinion that no one could be called Mother of God. At the same council Nestorius was condemned as heretical and had to flee to Persia. Why is it that the more reasonable theologians of the ancient church are the first to be condemned? Take Arius (`the Trinity is a philosophical monstrum and Jesus is not God’) or Pelagius (`there is free will!’).  Well, only God knows.
All this came to my mind when I recently made a translation of the following hymn. A friend had asked a translation for a choir for their program booklet and of course I was willing to do so.  I have no clue how old this hymn is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is from before 1000.  I would be glad to exchange a couple of Maria hymns for couple of hymn to Isis:  almost nothing has survived, just one hymn discovered in Nag Hammadi.
The Latin is quite simple with here and there mediaeval words.

Ave spes et salus
infirmorum ,
revocatrix.                                       revocatrix (f.)): one who calls back

Salve fax coelestis
luminosa ,

Laude plus laudabilis
coeli terraeque gyro                      gyrus: circular motion
dominaris ;                                       dominor (+abl.): to rule over

Virgo venerabilis
materque sine viro
nuncuparis,                                      nuncupo: to call, name (nomen + capio)

Summi regis nostri
plasmatoris                                      plasmatororis (m,):  creator
sedes amoris                                   sedes,  –es (f.): seat, foundation

aberrati sumus
in hac via,
virgo Maria,
male stamus

in peccatis multis
constituti ,                                        constitutus: placed, set
per te soluti                                     in order that we may become released by you
ut fiamus.

Da tuo juvamine                             juvamen , –aminis (n.): aid, help
delectamenta carnis superare,  delectamentum (n.): pleasure
ut sine gravamine                           gravamen, -aminis (n.): trouble, hindrence
die novissimo queamus stare       die novissimo: youngest day.  queo quivi quitum: be able

coram justo judice                          coram (+ abl.): before the eyes of
et non flendo
cum damnatis.

Hoc perpendat                                perpendo perpendi (-ere) to consider
homo mundi levis,
haec vita brevis
cito cedit,

mors perennis
post hoc minitatur,                         minitor minatus: to threathen   
non terminatur,                              termino:  to limit, bound
malos Iaedit.

Curta delectatio                              curtus: short
peccantibus suavis reputata,
longa castigatio
pro hac est in inferno praeparata,
a qua nos digneris custodire,       dignor dignatus: to be worthy
sed fac nos ire
cum beatis


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