Sunday, November 29, 2020

St. Ambrose - Veni Redemptor Genitum

A contemporary image of Ambrose
St. Ambrose is often described as one of the four Latin Doctors of the Church*, influential theologians who established the foundations of the church in the fourth century.  Unlike his compatriot Doctors, Ambrose was a most unusual saint.  He was the Roman governor of the province around Milan when he (kind of accidentally) became bishop of Milan.  He was quite popular as Governor and when the crowd was beginning to get rowdy debating who would become the next bishop, someone called out his name as a suggestion.  Suddenly it was a done deal.

Except there was this little problem: not only was Ambrose not a priest, he wasn't even baptized as a Christian.  The crowd wasn't about to let minor issues like that stand between them and their new bishop.  So Governor Aurelius Ambrosius became Bishop Ambrose.

He was a force to be reckoned with, even excommunicating Emperor Theodosius the Great (I think that this was the first time this had ever happened).

He also composed the first Christmas Carol, Veni Redemptor Genitum (Come, Redeemer of the Nations).  It is still performed today, 1650 years later.


Veni, redemptor gentium;
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.

English translation:
Come, Redeemer of the nations;
show forth the Virgin birth;
let every age marvel:
such a birth befits God.

Now the Christmas season is upon us.  It seemed right to start our annual christmas music posts with the very first Christmas carol.

* The others are St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory the Great.  It was sort of a Murderer's Row lineup of the early Church batting order.


lee n. field said...

And, the spiritual father (so to speak) of St. Augustine.

Glen Filthie said...

You religious BP?

Gorges Smythe said...

Interesting. The vocals sound ancient while the instrumental sound modern.

Unknown said...

Lee, yes indeed. Quite frankly, Ambrose was more the politician and Augustine more the theologian, but the early church history is fascinating.

Glen, yes. I can't say entirely orthodox, but you can read a lot of my postings here and here. As I said, not entirely orthodox, so you've been warned.

Gorges, what's interesting is that there may not have been any instrumentals at all in Ambrose's day. But this is a carol that keeps getting played and interpreted after all these years. At least, I think it's interesting ... ;-)

libertyman said...

I enjoyed this, and thought the soprano saxophone did add to the effect. Sounds a little Middle Eastern, since well, you know where this whole Christian thing started.
A timely and thoughtful lesson today.

LSP said...

Beautiful hymn!

Speaking of which, I was invited to celebrate Mass at Ambrose's basilica in Milan, years ago, and did so. Humbling and moving.

Speaking of which, the English see themselves as "old and settled" compared to America, and they are. Then they go to Italy and the local church dates back to the early 5th Century... As with England or even America, the locals often don't know what they've got.


Borepatch said...

LSP, that would be very cool indeed. And yes, there's a long history there. Next year we hope to take a cruise to Italy and Greece and one of the stops is Crete. The palace of Knossos dates back another couple millennia from Ambrose's cathedral, which is pretty mind blowing.