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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Panis angelicus is the penultimate strophe of the hymn Sacris solemniis written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi as part of a complete liturgy of the Feast including prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The strophe of Sacris solemniis that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" (bread of angels) has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn. Most famously, in 1872 César Franck set this strophe for tenor, organ, harp, cello, and double bass; later arranging it for tenor, chorus, and orchestra, he incorporated it into his Messe solennelle Opus 12. The 1932 performance of that work by John McCormack in Dublin's Phoenix Park became the highlight of his career. Noteworthy renditions have also been performed by tenors Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Richard Crooks, Donald Braswell and Roberto Alagna, as well as by the sopranos Magda Olivero, Renata Scotto, and Chloë Agnew. Singing trio The Priests give an extraordinary rendition in their debut album.

The phenomenon whereby the strophe of Sacris solemniis that begins with the words "Panis angelicus" is often treated as a separate hymn has occurred also with other hymns that Thomas Aquinas wrote for Corpus Christi: Verbum supernum prodiens (the last two strophes begin with "O salutaris Hostia") and Pange lingua gloriosi (the last two strophes begin with "Tantum ergo", in which case the word ergo ["therefore"] makes evident that this part is the continuation of a longer hymn).

Text of Panis angelicus, with doxology

Latin text An English translation
Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum.
Pauper, servus et humilis.


Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
Amen.
The angelic bread
becomes the bread of men;
The heavenly bread
ends all prefigurations:
What wonder!
consumes the Lord
a poor and humble servant.


Triune God,
We beg of You,
that you visit us,
as we worship You.
By your ways,
lead us who seek
the light in which You dwell.
Amen.

The article Sacris Solemniis in the Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the merits of a number of different translations.

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