WDTPRS: Vespers hymn for Mondays – Immense caeli Conditor

It is good sometimes to sit and really drill into the hymns for the liturgical Hours, rather than just read them through – familiar as they become with repetition (the essence of liturgical rites).  It helps to know the melodies, too.  Since we are our rites, we Catholic priests really ought to know our rite.  That means slowing down, drilling in, soaking it in, letting it seep into the marrow, dye the warp and weft of our prayers.

The Vigil of St. Lawrence, (check out Vespers HERE) we have this year the Hymn for Vespers on Mondays, feria secunda in Latin, the second day of the week.

The Vespers hymns follow an order through the week, recounting God’s work of creation day by day.  Yesterday, for Sunday Vespers, the 1st day of the week, we sing Lucis creator optime, which is about the creation of Light: Fiat lux!  Today, the hymn recounts God’s creative action on the second day of the week in Genesis 1:

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Today’s hymn, Immense caeli Conditor (and it is Cónditor not Condítor!), is in what is sometimes called the Ambrosian Meter, for Ambrose used it.  The Ambrosian strophe has four verses of eight syllables in iambic dimeter.  Remember that by the time this was written, accentual meters had pretty much replaced the earlier classical meters which considered the length of time it took to pronounce syllables, rather than just word accent … which lead to fascinating tensions in heterodyne feet!  Not just a ham radio term, heterodyne!  I don’t need to tell you that heterodyning is making a signal frequency by mixing two frequencies in a stable way using a mixer, like a oscillating vacuum-tube or transistor.   Thank you, Reginald Fessenden, another guy jacked around unfairly by Thomas Edison.  But I digress….

The Vespers hymns of the week in the Roman Breviary were probably written by St. Pope Gregory I, “The Great” (+604) who did a great deal to shape the Roman Rite that we have today… the Traditional Roman Rite, which our inheritance, our patrimony as Roman Catholics.  Let us never allow anyone to rob us or withhold from us our heritage.

Let’s drill. Let’s dye.

Imménse caeli Cónditor,
Qui mixta ne confúnderent,
Aquæ fluénta dívidens,
Cælum dedísti límitem.

Mighty creator of the heavens, dividing the streams of water You gave heaven as a limit, lest once mixed they should be confusedly jumbled together. (NB: heterodyne?  Nope.)

Firmans locum cæléstibus,
Simúlque terræ rívulis;
Ut unda flammas témperet,
Terræ solum ne díssipent.

Fixing a place for the heavenly streams, at the same time fixing one for those of the earth, so that the wave might temper the flames lest they destroy the ground of the earth.  (NB: sŏlum, the o is short.)

Infúnde nunc, piíssime,
Donum perénnis grátiæ:
Fraudis novæ ne cásibus
Nos error átterat vetus.

Now pour forth, O most Merciful, the gift of unending grace, so that the ancient offense not grind us down in the failures of new crimes.

Lucem fides adáugeat:
Sic lúminis iubar ferat:
Hæc vana cuncta próterat:
Hanc falsa nulla cómprimant.

O let the Faith increase the light: O thusly may divine splendor of illumination hasten: O may it trample under foot every vanity: O let no false thing suppress it. (NB: lux – f., iubar – n., lumen -n.)

Præsta, Pater piíssime,
Patríque compar Únice,
Cum Spíritu Paráclito
Regnans per omne s?culum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thank you for the post…all of the ferial hymns for Vespers are very good. It can take a while to understand some of the lines in the Latin without really studying them. For me at least, not having really studied Latin in a while.

    Speaking of “the Traditional Roman Rite, which is our inheritance, our patrimony as Roman Catholics”… according to centuries of tradition before 1955, there is really no such thing as Vespers for the “Vigil of St. Lawrence,” as all Vigils ended at None and thus the feast day would begin with 1st Vespers…

  2. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you for this, Father!

    I began praying the EF Divine Office with the Baronius Press edition this past Septuagesima, after praying the OF Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) for over 20 years. I believe it will take the rest of my days to really “absorb” these texts!

    Your posts about the weekly collects have also been helpful in this regard, as in the traditional Divine Office they are repeated throughout the week on ferias.

    I hope you will consider drilling into even more texts of the traditional breviary.

  3. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Dear Mr Sercer,

    Indeed. And of course, as with so many vigils, this one was occupied by St John-Mary Vianney until 1955, when he was moved to the previous day to leave the vigil free. The vigil before this was only commemorated at Lauds. A vigil at Vespers is an invention of Hannibal Bugnini in the post-55 Office.

    Thus we move slowly further and further away from our true and oldest birthright, which is the Temple prayer and the psalms as recited in Our Lord’s own day, and which His holy lips would, day by day, have uttered before us. What a thought to console us when we sometimes find the Office tedious.

    As a friend once observed to me, the Novus Ordo reforms are fundamentally anti-Semitic.

    [How would he explain the jettisoning of the priest’s perennial offertory prayers for the bread and wine in favor of modified Jewish blessings?]

  4. Imrahil says:

    As I am not an “official” Divine Office prayer (that is, cleric or religious) and used to pray it privately (which I may yet again), which I understood and still understand to mean that if I do pray it, I am not bound by any rubric or current form and free to do whatever I like that is no sin…

    the idea of Vespers of a Vigil seems to me to be something rather unusual. Just saying.

    But it really is interesting to pray these rare hymns. As a Lenten practice (which I think I quit in midtime and resumed for Passiontide), I prayed the Matins and Lauds “Hymns of the Saturday after Ash Wednesday”, which actually are the hymns for Saturday generally, but that’s either a feast or a “real” day of Lent or Our Lady on Saturday, so there’s just this day left … and yes, Vigils that (survived 1955 and) fall on Saturday…

  5. bigtex says:

    “As a friend once observed to me, the Novus Ordo reforms are fundamentally anti-Semitic.”

    LOL, no. If anything, the New World Order Mass squashes the JQ.

    [What does that mean?]

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