Saturday, November 20, 2010

O Magnum Mysterium

Today my wife asked me to translate the Latin from a song she's singing with Martha Sargent's Christmas Chorus. This was the "O Magnum Mysterium" text from the responsorial chant of the Catholic liturgy. As I did so, it made me miss that time when I was more immersed in reading Latin. I find the language both an intellectual puzzle and provocatively mysterious. So I decided to expand / adapt my translation of the text into a sonnet.

I composed my sonnet version while listening to this very moving contemporary musical setting of the text by Morten Lauridsen. Enjoy.

O Magnum Mysterium
by Gideon Burton
after the responsorial chant

So suddenly in sacramental awe,
in marveling, in mystery, in grace
as plain as bleating animals that saw
the birthing virgin, sweaty in her face,
another burdened woman made divine
in suffering and blood, in sacred price.
Eternity, enwombed in mortal time,
in labor to deliver sacrifice,
how like thy mother, present to the pain
and fear, uncertain of the body’s bounds.
Can wearied, shaking flesh at last contain
infinities of yearning, sounding sound?
     As mute as night, I stand among the beasts;
     My God, my Christ, my child, my friend, my priest.

O Magnum Mysterium

O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in praesepio.
O beata Virgo, cuius viscera meruerunt portare christum Dominum.
Domine, audivi auditum tuum et timui; consideravi opera tua,
et expavi: in medio duorum animalium

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