A side-by-side look at Exsultet texts

My apologies from the onset if there are some typos or formatting problems here. I cut and pasted texts into a table and then copied the table to the blog, which isn’t always successful. But this could be a helpful quick glance at the differences of the new and old translation of the Exsultet. I am sort of busy today and couldn’t clean it up. But, its flaws considered, I thought to share it anyway.  If someone can do a better job, feel free to do so and send it to me and I will check it out.

Exsúltet iam angélica turba cælórum:
exsúltent divína mystéria: et pro tanti Regis victória tuba ínsonet salutáris.
Gáudeat et tellus, tantis irradiáta fulgóribus: et ætérni Regis splendóre illustráta, tótius orbis se séntiat amisísse calíginem.  Lætétur et mater Ecclésia, tanti lúminis adornáta fulgóribus: et magnis populórum vócibus hæc aula resúltet.
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph! Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,ablaze with light from her eternal King,let all corners of the earth be glad,knowing an end to gloom and darkness.Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,arrayed with the lightning of his glory,let this holy building shake with joy,filled with the mighty voices of the peoples. Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!  Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!  Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!
[Quaprópter astántes vos, fratres caríssimi,
ad tam miram huius sancti lúminis claritátem,
una mecum, quæso,
Dei omnipoténtis misericórdiam invocáte.
Ut, qui me non meis méritis
intra Levitárum númerum dignátus est aggregáre,
lúminis sui claritátem infúndens,
cérei huius laudem implére perfíciat.]
[V/ Dóminus vobíscum.
R/ Et cum spíritu tuo.]
V/ Sursum corda.
R/ Habémus ad Dóminum.
V/ Grátias agámus Dómino Deo nostro.
R/ Dignum et iustum est.
(Therefore, dearest friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty, that he, who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites, may pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).(V. The Lord be with you.R. And with your spirit.)V. Lift up your hearts.R. We lift them up to the Lord.V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.R. It is right and just. My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
re dignum et iustum est, invisíbilem Deum Patrem omnipoténtem
Filiúmque eius unigénitum,
Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum,
toto cordis ac mentis afféctu et vocis ministério personáre.Qui pro nobis ætérno Patri Adæ débitum solvit, et véteris piáculi cautiónem pio cruóre detérsit.Hæc sunt enim festa paschália,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occíditur,
cuius sánguine postes fidélium consecrántur.Hæc nox est, in qua primum patres nostros, fílios Israel edúctos de Ægypto, Mare Rubrum sicco vestígio transíre fecísti.Hæc ígitur nox est,
quæ peccatórum ténebras colúmnæ illuminatióne purgávit.Hæc nox est, quæ hódie per univérsum mundum in Christo credéntes, a vítiis sæculi et calígine peccatórum segregátos,
reddit grátiæ, sóciat sanctitáti.
It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heartand with devoted service of our voice,to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.These, then, are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to his holy ones.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!This is our passover feast, when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.This is the night when first you saved our fathers: you freed the people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea.This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
Hæc nox est,
in qua, destrúctis vínculis mortis,
Christus ab ínferis victor ascéndit.Nihil enim nobis nasci prófuit, nisi rédimi profuísset.
O mira circa nos tuæ pietátis dignátio!
O inæstimábilis diléctio caritátis:
ut servum redímeres, Fílium tradidísti!O certe necessárium Adæ peccátum,
quod Christi morte delétum est!
O felix culpa,
quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem!O vere beáta nox,
quæ sola méruit scire tempus et horam,
in qua Christus ab ínferis resurréxit!Hæc nox est, de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminábitur:
et nox illuminátio mea in delíciis meis.
This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.O wonder of your humble care for us!O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!Of this night scripture says: “The night will be as clear as day: it will become my light, my joy.”
Huius ígitur sanctificátio noctis fugat scélera, culpas lavat:
et reddit innocéntiam lapsis
et mæstis lætítiam.
Fugat ódia, concórdiam parat
et curvat impéria.O vere beáta nox,
in qua terrénis cæléstia, humánis divína iungúntur!In huius ígitur noctis grátia, súscipe, sancte Pater, laudis huius sacrifícium vespertínum, quod tibi in hac cérei oblatióne solémni,
per ministrórum manus de opéribus apum, sacrosáncta reddit Ecclésia.Sed iam colúmnæ huius præcónia nóvimus, quam in honórem Dei rútilans ignis accéndit. Qui, lícet sit divísus in partes, mutuáti tamen lúminis detrimenta non novit.Alitur enim liquántibus ceris, quas in substántiam pretiósæ huius lámpadis
apis mater edúxit.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human. The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.[…]Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled with God!
Orámus ergo te, Dómine,
ut céreus iste in honórem tui nóminis consecrátus,
ad noctis huius calíginem destruéndam,
indefíciens persevéret.
Et in odórem suavitátis accéptus,
supérnis lumináribus misceátur.Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat:
ille, inquam, Lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.
Christus Fílius tuus,
qui, regréssus ab ínferis, humáno géneri serénus illúxit,
et vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculórum.R/ Amen.
Therefore, O Lord,we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honor of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night.Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.R. Amen. Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night, receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your Church’s solemn offering.Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Some years ago I sang the Exsultet and it was recorded.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Geoffrey says:

    I absolutely love the Exultet! I have a feeling that I will be hearing the obsolete translation tonight, as it seems no one updated the Holy Week “binders” used by the celebrant, etc.!

  2. HyacinthClare says:

    There are good reasons I can’t go to the vigil tonight, but Oh! How I was going to miss the Exultet, sung by our new young deacon with a lovely voice and a real ability to hang on to a melody and a pitch… as he got to prove yesterday afternoon during the looooong gospel by St. John. Now I’ve heard it! And while I’m sure he’ll be VERY good tonight, and really enjoy singing it, he doesn’t have half the voice you do. That is BETTER DONE than the Exultet I’ve always heard in my head. Closing my eyes, I can see the dark, smell the fire, see the candlelight spread… watch them make the holy water… rats on reasons! I think I’m going to go anyway!!

  3. APX says:

    I don’t recall them singing the Exultet last year at the Easter Vigil I was at. I recall a dramatic and animated singing of “Canticle of the Free” between readings, but I don’t think they sang the Exultet, unless there is another version of it that is more modern like the Litany of the Saints and I just didn’t recognize it. Your recording of it is the first I’ve ever heard that version.

    When does the Exultet usually get sung?

  4. The bees are back! Deo gratias!

  5. Geoffrey says:

    “When does the Exultet usually get sung?”

    It SHOULD be right after the procession into the church with the paschal candle, after everyone has lit their own candles, and before the Liturgy of the Word.

  6. jameeka says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Father–thank you for the link to 2007

  7. APX says:

    Yeah, then we didn’t have it. I recall having to respond to something 3 times (the priest made us rehearse first), lighting our candles while the priest put out the fire, walked back up to the sanctuary and told us to “get comfy for story time”. We never went outside of the church. I thought that part seemed a little on the deficient side. Now I’m looking forward to tonight even more.

  8. heway says:

    Hi all, just got home from our Easter Vigil and much to some people’s consternation, I sang the ‘Exsult” again. (Aged, female, cantor). Pastor has a beautiful Nigerian voice but will not sing at our Vigil or one at another parish he cares for.
    I have driven many miles just to hear an Easter Vigil Exsult because we never had one at our little mission church. Having done the previous one several times, I found that exsult does not fit the lips quite like rejoice. Otherwise, I love both of them and could not tolerate anything else at a Vigil Mass……Christ has risen!…indeed he has!

  9. filioque says:

    “get comfy for story time”? Oh, you poor, long-suffering hero. My deepest sympathies. I am each week more grateful for the EF we are privileged to attend.

  10. Random Friar says:

    Welcome back, mother bees!

    The tone is just different enough to have caused some tripping, but it worked out fine.

  11. Eriugena says:

    Father, the obsolete ICEL version used to say “And also with you”, not “And with your spirit”. It’s very encouraging to see that the appallingly terrible translation has been forgotten so quickly!

  12. Austin says:

    Much as the new versions are almost uniformly better and more accurate, I have to say that, to my taste, the old bad IECL has better prose rhythms for declamation and singing in the Exultet version. Perhaps I feel that way because I sang it several times when I was an Anglican. But hearing the new version, moderately well sung, last night, I found it a bit flat, the syntax a little too dense, and some of the word choices infelicitous. Perhaps sticking to the Latin wherever possible would be a better idea.

  13. ljc says:

    Can anyone tell me more about this line:
    “Nihil enim nobis nasci prófuit, nisi rédimi profuísset.”

    I can’t figure out prófuit and profuisset…

  14. Winfield says:

    Last night the Exultet at our parish was sung, very well, by men in the choir loft (which we still use). Since they sang the short version, there was no mention of bees, alas. Also, only two readings before the Gospel, EP II (the Roman Canon is too long for our pastor), and no renewal of Baptismal vows. But our pastor used incense–a very rare treat for our smokeless parish–and there were, thankfully, six or eight Baptisms and as many additional confirmations. All in all a beautifully performed, if incomplete, liturgy.

  15. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Profuit and profuisset are respectively the perfect indicative active and pluperfect subjunctive active of prosum, prodesse–benefit, assist.

    Having sung the piece last night, I found the following two parts difficult to sing in a way that made the syntax clear:

    This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin. (Maybe: that banished sin’s darkness with a pillar of fire.)
    May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: (hard to get in all in in one breath with a page turn (short version)

    Also, “worldly” is a really hard word to sing in way with any beauty whatsoever.

  16. Andrew says:


    “Nihil enim nobis nasci prófuit, nisi rédimi profuísset.”

    Nothing however to us to be born would have been worthwhile, unless to be redeemed would have had been worthwhile.

    or, less literally

    What good would it be to be born if we couldn’t have been redeemed.

    It is best to understand a text in the language in which it is conceived. A translation is an attempt to make spaghetti out of rice, or burgers out of vegetables.

    [Perhaps you could think of it this way: “For it would have profited us nothing to have been born, unless it had been fitting (for us) to be redeemed.”]

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our Easter Vigil was just one of those times when you know that Father Murphy is concelebrating, even if unseen . . .
    First of all, kindling the Easter fire outside was a bit of an adventure – at first it wouldn’t light, then somebody was a bit too generous with the Boy Scout Juice and almost set one of the deacon’s hair on fire (and he ran over the microphone getting out of the way). Somebody forget to turn the A/C up and the choir loft was like an oven when we got upstairs (especially with all those candles!)
    Then the rector’s microphone went out. Would have been fine with me if all the mikes had gone out altogether, but instead it made horrid buzzing and crackling and screeching noises until one of the deacons who is technologically inclined managed to fix it.
    Our choir director was singing the Exultet (long version) in the dim shadows of the choir loft when somehow one of the pages of music disappeared (no doubt lifted by Father Murphy). Our staff soprano sprang into the breach and tossed him a copy of the missalette with the words and held a candle for him, but he had to ad lib the chant. He is absolutely unflappable though – only a short pregnant silence which in our frozen panic we estimated at anywhere from 6 seconds to 15!
    Surprisingly, no homily — which meant that the entire choir had to frantically search for the Litany of the Saints with about 10 seconds warning. The three of us who ring handbells AND sing had to dash back and forth between our places in the choir and the handbell tables. Nobody tripped and fell, but I rang the wrong bell twice and was out of breath for the first 32 bars of the Telemann “Laudate Jehovam”.
    But nobody was actually killed.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    I truly believe that every parish, even small ones, can have good music. On the one hand, people who say it isn’t possible are flat wrong because I’ve seen it done; on the other, even though it is possible, it takes some wisdom in picking the right arrangements, setting up the repertoire, and the essential rehearsal and dedication on the part of the choir members. There are many people, after all, who can carry a tune, and some of them are quite trainable.

    The THREE biggest mistakes that small parishes make are:
    a) Inappropriate scope: Thinking they either can’t do anything OR thinking that they have to do it all. The first results in a minimalistic setting that doesn’t do justice to the mass; the second usually results in grave and grinding penance for the listeners. Penance isn’t supposed to be the keynote for the Easter vigil, just saying.
    b) Choosing a “middle ground” which is more appropriate for them, but then failing to REHEARSE (!) and set up the things that will mean success, ie lots of practice & feedback, lead time, appropriate accompaniment, tonal notes when needed, singing in pairs if needed, etc.
    c) Not having someone physically leading the choir. Small parishes often only have one person doing choir and it’s usually the same person who plays the accompaniment. PLEASE, PLEASE ante up and pick someone from the choir to lead the choir so they listen to each other and stay together!!! It doesn’t matter if that person has a degree in music or whatever; what matters is that the person is capable of keeping the choir together and getting them to listen to each other, and doesn’t get a big head over it. This is worship after all.

    Specifically for the Easter vigil: For small parishes especially, there is a very good arrangement for a tenor and a small choir group. And although it was originally set up for the old translation, since much of the Exultet is chant in this arrangement, it can probably be modified rather finely. I recommend it for small parishes that don’t have a tenor with the stamina or range that this piece really requires. This arrangement consists of tenor chants interspersed with some short sections of choral harmony to give the tenor a chance to breathe and check his pitch. A piano or organ can be used as a soft accompaniment and keying device so the whole thing stays on pitch and tempo. In a small parish it can be very worshipful and effective.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    PS. Lest what I said be misunderstood, the “soft accompaniment” is only for the choir sections and not for the tenor who has to chant without accompaniment. With practice and prompts from the interspersed choral section, however, even a modest tenor in a small parish can do this though and do it well.

    I’m also finding online examples of Exsultets sung by two tenors alternately taking sections of this very long piece. This might be a good idea for a small parish too, if you have two tenors who’d like to sing together.

  20. John Nolan says:

    Although the translation is actually a translation and not the vague paraphrase of old (and which, thankfully, I never had to suffer) in view of the antiquity and importance of this once-a-year chant it should always be sung in Latin – the translation is a good crib. Our Jewish brethren use their sacred language on solemn occasions, and so should we.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    Good advice, especially wrt not being too timid or too ambitious. Perhaps gradual ramping up from moderately simple is the best approach.
    Our choir is small, so we do not attempt the big, bombastic “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” settings (as far as I’m concerned, if we never sing that stuff it will be too soon). But a group of 18-20 competent singers is perfect for most Renaissance polyphony, and our music director selects good ones. I love that sort of music, and of course there is so much of it that you could sing something different every Sunday for 100 years or so without any problem.
    Wrt directors — the good thing about a small group singing polyphony (which should be adjusted internally and constantly by the singers) is that you don’t really need a director and a director is somewhat counterproductive because it can become a bit mechanical. But — you have to have singers who can read music and are capable of listening to the other parts. And they also have to show up for rehearsal. I think that’s a perpetual problem in every singing group, given everybody’s busy schedule these days.
    “Immoral, impossible, God only knows,
    How tenors, sopranos, basses and altos,
    Who show up on Sunday are never the same,
    As those who on Thursday to choir practice came.”

  22. irishgirl says:

    I love the ‘new’ translation of the Exsultet! Much more ‘sacral’ and poetic compared to the ‘clunky’ English in the now-obsolete version.
    And it was wonderful hearing Father Z chanting it in the link of April ’07! The hairs on my arms were rising with goosebumps as I heard it!
    Since I go to the TLM exclusively now, I could follow along the Latin using the [new] English translation.
    What powerful imagery!

  23. jesusthroughmary says:

    20 competent singers is a “small” choir? Not to 99.9% of parishes.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sometimes we have fewer than 15, and on one memorable occasion during an ice storm/power outage there were only 5 of us (but we had all the parts covered). The sections are well anchored – we have excellent staff singers and 2-3 very competent choir veterans in each section. And of course we have a fabulously talented music director who can play anything, sing three of the four parts, and key your pitch for you in the middle of playing the accompaniment (if any) or just give you the note in the middle of singing the tenor part . . . . anybody who shows up gets a good musical education and becomes a much better singer.
    I do know exactly how blessed we are. My parents were cathedral choir singers, my paternal grandparents were professional singers, and I started singing in the Episcopal cathedral choir at the age of 6 and have been at it ever since . . . . most Catholic churches simply don’t have the sort of musical environment that we always took for granted when we were Episcopalians.
    In fact, the music was a stumbling block to our conversion . . . . and only after we had decided that the Truth and Bad Music was better than Lies and Great Music, did our parish stumble on our present music director. Thank you St. Cecilia!

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Professor Van der Meer has a lovely article about the ‘Exultet’ manuscript in the Cathedral of Bari (I do not know if it has ever been published in English translation).

    I see there is a ‘Wiki’ illustration from it –


    where you can not only see how it is rolled out over the ambo by the Deacon as he proceeds, but can also see that the illustrations are upside-down to the text, so that they could be seen right-side-up when the manuscript-scroll was unrolled in this way.

    He has an interesting comment on “exsúltent divína mystéria” (also the reading of the Bari rotulus): that the original reading was “misteria”, a late spelling of ‘ministeria’, referring to the ‘retinue of ministering angels of God’ – a sense nicely translated in the new ICEL version – “let Angel ministers of God exult”!

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