You know that the committee set up by the Holy See to ride shotgun on the English translation process is called Vox Clara. Did you know that Vox Clara is a hymn in the Liturgy of the Hours for the hour of Lauds during Advent? This hymn was perhaps written in the 6th c. There is super depth here. First, let’s have the hymn in Latin and with my strict literal translation:
Vox clara ecce intonat,
Hark! A clear voice is thundering,
Mens iam resurgat torpida
Now the benumbed mind rises again
E sursum Agnus mittitur
The Lamb is sent from on high
Secundo ut cum fulserit
So that at the Second Coming when He will shine and dread will gird the world,
Summo Parenti gloria
To the Father Most High let there be glory,
There are some deep things happening in this hymn which you might not be catching and which an English translation is sure to compromise. The fact is that the Latin vocabulary harks to concepts from ancient rhetoric. Let me give you some alternatives for the vocabulary in the first verse, so that the second takes on a new meaning:
Hark! A clear/intelligible/glorious (clara) voice is thundering,
and it loudly rebukes whatever is obscure/unintelligible/ignoble (obscura):
dreams/silly things (somnia) are being put to flight afar;
Christ is gleaming/springing forth (promicat) from heaven.
Now the benumbed mind rises again
which stands over wounded baseness,
now heaven shines forth something new,
that it may do away with every injurious thing.
The eternal Logos, who is the Word and Light from Light, makes "clear" all things. This refers to the workings of the rational mind. Even now we refer to people who are "in the dark". Dante, at the beginning of the Divine Comedy is in a "dark wood" because he has lost the path of reason, he is in the state of sin and this state both results from confusion and produces confusing, the inability to reason properly. His journey through the infernal region is an extended metaphor for the recovery of the life of reason and, therefore, the resolution of a sinful life. Virtue and reason and light and clarity contradistinguish vice and animal confusion and lack of understanding. This is the concept in the first verse of Vox Clara.
The second verse then has a deeper meaning. A person awakens from a deep sleep at the sound of a loud voice and because of the shining of light. He awakes somewhat groggy in the early morning. Remember, these were sung in darkness of the early morning in late antiquity and through the centuries to follow before electricity. They were sung in Advent, when the days were at their shortest and they were cold and numb and waiting for the days finally to lengthen again.
Light and reason and clarity and beauty are all associated with the VOICE, the VOX. The Latin word vox means not just "voice" but also "That which is uttered by the voice, i. e. a word, saying, speech, sentence, proverb, maxim." VOX = VERBUM and thus the glorious voice which makes everthing clear and understood, thundering from heaven, is the Risen Christ Coming at the world’s end to lay all things bare and resolve them.
The hymn Vox Clara is about the beginning of the day, the beginning of an examination of conscience, the beginning of repentance and conversion, all in light of the ending of the world.
Most of the time when people translate Vox clara they pick up rightly that the "Vox" refers to St. John the Baptist, "the voice shouting in the desert" to make straight the path of the Lord who is coming. This is a constant theme of Advent: make straight the path, prepare well for Christ. In fact, Christ, when He comes will undoubtedly come by the straight path whether you have taken time to straighten them or not. His Coming (to you) as Lord and Judge at the end can thus be smooth or, alternatively, pretty violent if HE is doing all the straightening… in the twinkling of an eye.
So, there is the hymn an interplay between the Vox and the Verbum, the Precursor and the Messiah. The one who announces is in fact a pre-echo of the one who is the Word.
One could dig at this hymn for a long time.
The text we have today has been restored to its older form after changes that were made to it by Pope Urban VIII (Barbarini) in 1632 for the Breviarium Romanum. In that period of excited Renaissance humanism and the rediscovery of ancient literature, Urban’s version was strongly classicizing, and the hymn did not benefit from the changes: Here it is:
En clara vox redarguit
obscura quaeque, personans:
procul fugentur somnia:
ab alto Iesus promicat.
Mens iam resurgat, torpida
non amplius iacens humi:
sidus refulget iam novum,
ut tollat omne noxium.
En Angus ad nos mittitur
laxare gratis debitum:
omnes simul cum lacrimis
Ut, cum secundo fulserit,
metuque mundum cinxerit,
non pro reatu puniat,
sed nos pius tunc protegat.
Virtus, honor, laus, gloria
Deo Patri cum Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
As stilted as that is, however, we did get a very nice poetic rendering of that version from Venerable John Henry Newman:
HARK, a joyful voice is thrilling,
And each dim and winding way
Of the ancient Temple filling;
Dreams, depart! for it is day.
Christ is coming!—from thy bed,
Earth-bound soul, awake and spring,—
With the sun new-risen to shed
Health on human suffering.
Lo! to grant a pardon free,
Comes a willing Lamb from Heaven;
Sad and tearful, hasten we,
One and all, to be forgiven.
Once again He comes in light,
Girding earth with fear and woe;
Lord! be Thou our loving Might,
From our guilt and ghostly foe.
To the Father, and the Son,
And the Spirit, who in Heaven
Ever witness, Three and One,
Praise on earth be ever given.