This Sunday’s anthem at the Offertory at the 10:30 service “is one of the oldest texts in the book.”
I seem to say that a lot.
Indeed, The Hymnal 1982 is a storehouse of the theology of the Episcopal Church. Its riches are, in my opinion, unsurpassed among Protestant hymnals published in this country in the 20th Century.
This anthem text, Jesu dulcis memoria, has inspired centuries of composers from Palestrina to Victoria and all the way to the 21st Century. It is actually a hymn attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French abbot and major reformer of Benedictine monasticism.
Sections of this hymn text are used in Vespers and Lauds, two daily observances of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Catholic tradition.
In addition to its liturgical and anthem use, this text has inspired Protestant hymnists to write translations through the years. The hymns “Jesus the very thought of thee” and “Jesus thou joy of loving hearts” are based upon translations of Jesu dulcis memoria.
The text simply and earnestly extols the name of Jesus. Because the Latin itself is beautiful, the complete text, along with its English translation, bears printing here:
Jesu dulcis memoria dans vera cordis gaudia:
sed super mel et omnia ejus dulcis praesentia.
Nil canitur suavius, nil auditur jucundius,
nil cogitatur dulcius, quam Jesus Dei Filius.
Jesu, spes paenitentibus,
uam pius es petentibus!
quam bonus te quaerentibus!
sed quid invenientibus?
Nec lingua valet dicere, nec littera exprimere:
expertus potest credere, quid sit Jesum diligere.
Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium, qui es futurus praemium:
sit nostra in te gloria, per cuncta semper saecula. Amen.
Jesus, the very thought of Thee with sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see and in Thy Presence rest.
No voice can sing, no heart can frame, nor can the memory find,
a sweeter sound than Jesus' Name, the Savior of mankind.
O hope of every contrite heart! O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art! How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find, ah, this?
Nor tongue nor pen can show the love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
Jesus! our only hope be Thou, as Thou our prize shalt be;
In Thee be all our glory now, and through eternity. Amen.