English translation of
Of the glorious Body telling,
O my tongue, its mysteries sing,
And the Blood, all price excelling,
Which the world's eternal King,
In a noble womb once dwelling
Shed for the world's ransoming.
Given for us, descending,
Of a Virgin to proceed,
Man with man in converse blending,
Scattered he the Gospel seed,
Till his sojourn drew to ending,
Which he closed in wondrous deed.
At the last great Supper lying
Circled by his brethren's band,
Meekly with the law complying,
First he finished its command
Then, immortal Food supplying,
Gave himself with his own hand.
Word made Flesh, by word he maketh
Very bread his Flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ's Blood partaketh:
And if senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.
Therefore we, before him bending,
This great Sacrament revere;
Types and shadows have their ending,
For the newer rite is here;
Faith, our outward sense befriending,
Makes the inward vision clear.
Glory let us give, and blessing
To the Father and the Son;
Honour, might, and praise addressing,
While eternal ages run;
Ever too his love confessing,
Who, from both, with both is one.
R. Thou hast given them bread from heaven.
V. Having within it all sweetness.
Let us pray: O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament left us a memorial of Thy Passion: grant, we implore Thee, that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, as always to be conscious of the fruit of Thy Redemption. Thou who livest and reignest forever and ever.
Click here for the Latin lyrics.
This hymn is exceedingly sublime in its expression of faith in Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The latter part of this hymn is mandated by the Church for use at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The last two stanzas, known as the Tantum Ergo, is usually sung at the beginning of the last part of Benediction; after any period of silence and before the priest blesses the congregation with Our Lord Himself. Even today this hymn is widely known and used frequently. It is one of the most famous chants in existence.
It was written by St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor. He is known as the Common Doctor of the Church. His angelic purity and holiness brought him very close to God. He wrote the hymn Pange Lingua (of which the Tantum Ergo is the last two stanzas) for the feast of Corpus Christi. A fellow priest and close friend attempted this task at the same time. When St. Thomas finished, he shared it with the priest, who was awe-struck at its sublimity and expression. He was so moved by its beauty that he immediately tore up his own work, which he professed was like so much garbage compared to this heavenly-inspired text.
The hymn is as beautiful and poetic as it is precise in expressing Catholic doctrine. It is peerless for its quality, sublimity, and facility with the Latin language. Verse 4 especially does a play on words, deftly arranged by a Latin master. St. Thomas Aquinas was a true man - as pious and humble as he was intelligent, as chaste as he was courageous, as meek as he was wise. Witness the heights a man can achive by God's grace and the cultivation of virtue - instead of descending toward the level of the lower animals (by sensuality, anger, unrestrained passions), he rather aims upward toward the level of the angels (by purity, humility, charity).
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