Veni, Creator Spiritus

Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit), is the beginning of a grand Pentecostal hymn, generally ascribed to Charlemagne. The original runs thus:

"Veni, Creator Spiritns, Meutes tuorum visita, Imple superna gratia Quse tu creasti pectora.

"Qui Paraclitus diceris Deique donnm altissimi, Fons vivus, ignis, caritas Et spiritalis uuctio.

"Tu septiformis munere, Dextrne Dei tu digitus, Tu rite promissum Patris Sermone ditans guttura."

Accende lumen sensibus, Infunde amorem cordibus, Infirma nostri corporis Virtute firmans perpeti.

"Hostem repellas longius Pacemque dones protinus, Ductore sic te praevio Vitemus omne noxium."

"Per te sciamus, da, Patrem, Noscamus atque Filium, T'e utriusque Spiriturn Credamus omni tempore.

"[Sit laus Patri cum Filio, Sancto simul Paracleto, Nobisque mittat Filins Charisma Sancti Spiritus.]"

This hymn holds a peculiar place among the treasures which the ancient Church has transmitted to our service of song. It is not only a precious heirloom, but marks a period in the history of the Church, when, a great contest decided, the truth vindicated entered into the very life of the Church, and rang forth in gladsome accents of praise. Therefore it is, and ever will continue, the grand Pentecostal hymn-not merely from its contents, sublime as these are, but as the earliest full expression, in the language of praise, of the scriptural doctrine concerning the work and the person of the Holy Ghost, attained after long and bitter fight. But that battle has rolled away; not even its most distant echoes are heard in the hymn; and the Veni Creator is not a battle-song, not even one of victory, but of triumph and praise in the enjoyment Of the fruits of victory. Occupying the most advanced position, and, indeed, the key to the whole, in the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and Son, holding it securely against all adversaries, the Church bursts forth in prayer for his coming and for his working, and in praise to his person, in that grand, full toned Pentecostal hymn of the Veni Creator.

As already stated, popular tradition has ascribed the Veni Creator to Charlemagne, but this view is wholly untenable. The learned Mone (Hymni Lat. Med. Mevi, 1, 241) states that this hymn existed in MSS. prior to the date of Charlemagne. Besides, that emperor was by no means sufficiently master of Latin — not to speak of Greek — to compose such a hymn in classical meter, so strictly observed as in this case. On the other hand, the evidence in favor of its composition by Gregory the Great is quite preponderating. Its contents and its form alike remind us of this author. To at least seven out of its twenty-four lines we can append strictly parallel passages and expressions from the undoubted writings of Gregory. Besides, it resembles not only in character, but in the use of certain peculiar words and terms, the other hymns of Gregory, of which eight are contained in the Benedictine edition of his works, while the learned Mone traces no fewer than twelve to his pen. Again, the character of prayer mingled with praise, and the classical meter with partial rhymes, are also peculiar to Gregory. The writer evidently knew Greek, as appears from the correct quantity in the word Paraclitus, in line 5, whereas it is incorrectly given in line 26. Hence the whole of this concluding stanza, which we have put in brackets, is evidently a spurious addition. It is needless in itself, since the doxology is already contained in the four previous lines; and it differs from the rest of the hymn in its wrong metrification, and by its regular rhyme. Lastly, Gregory, in his hymns, not infrequently borrows from Ambrose, and this is also notably the case in the Veni Creator. Not to speak of several imitations, lines 15 and 16 are taken word for word from a hymn of Ambrose, the Veni Redemptor Gentium (q.v.).

The historical position of Veni Creator in regard to the great doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost may in some measure account both for the place which it occupied in the services of the Church and for the extravagant language in which medieval writers refer to it. Anciently it was sung not only at Whitsuntide, but, as still in the Roman Catholic Church, on the most solemn occasions at the election of a pope and of bishops, at the coronation of kings, at synods, and at the elevation and translation of the relics of saints. Its "more than ordinary worth and dignity" have been recognised by the Church of England, "when, dismissing every other hymn, she has yet retained this in the offices for the ordaining of priests and the consecrating of bishops." It is certainly one of the most magnificent compositions, mingling prayer with praise-grand, full chorded, rich in tone and melody, and at the same time soft, sweet, and touching. In a singular manner it unites the doctrinal with the practical, the full-rounded statement of scriptural truth with conscious need and joyous assurance.

This hymn has been translated repeatedly into English and German. The following in English is a free rendering by an unknown hand, first introduced into the office for the ordination of priests upon the revision of the liturgy of the Church of England in 1662, and runs thus:

"Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire And lighten with celestial fire. Thou the Anointing Spirit art, Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

"Thy blessed unction from above Is comfort, life, and fire of love. Enable with perpetual light The dullness of our blinded sight.

"Anoint and cheer our soiled face With the abundance of thy grace. Keep far our foes; give peace at home. Where thou art guide, no ill can come.

"Teach us to know the Father, Son, And thee of both, to be but One. That through the ages all along This may be our endless song:

"'Praise to thy eternal merit, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.'"

In German it is found in the collections of Bassler, Simrock, Konigsfeld, Rambach, etc. (B. P.)

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