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Pange Lingua is a hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi (now called the Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ). Some writers feel that the rhythm was based on the marching song of Caesar's Legions: "Ecce, Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias;" the opening words recall another famous Latin sequence, also called Pange Lingua, by Venantius Fortunatus. It is also sung on Holy Thursday, during the procession from the church to the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept until Good Friday. The last two stanzas, called separately Tantum Ergo, are sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Both the hymn and liturgical observances celebrate a transubstantiation where the bread and wine is believed in faith to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Latin text and English version
Pange, lingua, gloriosi Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory, Corporis mysterium, of His flesh the mystery sing; Sanguinisque pretiosi, of the Blood, all price exceeding, quem in mundi pretium shed by our immortal King, fructus ventris generosi destined, for the world's redemption, Rex effudit Gentium. from a noble womb to spring. Nobis datus, nobis natus Of a pure and spotless Virgin ex intacta Virgine, born for us on earth below, et in mundo conversatus, He, as Man, with man conversing, sparso verbi semine, stayed, the seeds of truth to sow; sui moras incolatus then He closed in solemn order miro clausit ordine. wondrously His life of woe. In supremae nocte coenae On the night of that Last Supper, recumbens cum fratribus seated with His chosen band, observata lege plene He the Pascal victim eating, cibis in legalibus, first fulfills the Law's command; cibum turbae duodenae then as Food to His Apostles se dat suis manibus. gives Himself with His own hand. Verbum caro, panem verum Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature verbo carnem efficit: by His word to Flesh He turns; fitque sanguis Christi merum, wine into His Blood He changes; et si sensus deficit, what though sense no change discerns? ad firmandum cor sincerum Only be the heart in earnest, sola fides sufficit. faith her lesson quickly learns. Tantum ergo Sacramentum Down in adoration falling, veneremur cernui: Lo! the sacred Host we hail; et antiquum documentum Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, novo cedat ritui: newer rites of grace prevail; praestet fides supplementum faith for all defects supplying, sensuum defectui. where the feeble sense fail. Genitori, Genitoque To the everlasting Father, laus et jubilatio, and the Son who reigns on high, salus, honor, virtus quoque with the Holy Ghost proceeding sit et benedictio: forth from Each eternally, procedenti ab utroque be salvation, honor, blessing, compar sit laudatio. might and endless majesty. Amen. Alleluia. Amen. Alleluia.
Pange lingua in music history
There are two plainchant settings of the Pange Lingua hymn. The better known is a Phrygian mode tune from the Roman liturgy, and the other is from the Mozarabic liturgy from Spain. The Roman tune was originally part of the Gallican Rite .
The Roman version of the Pange Lingua hymn was the basis for a famous composition by Renaissance composer Josquin Desprez, the Missa pange lingua. An elaborate fantasy on the hymn, the mass is one of the composer's last works and has been dated to the period from 1515 to 1521, since it was not included by Petrucci in his 1515 collection of Josquin's masses, and was published posthumously. In its simplification, motivic unity and close attention to the text it has been compared to the late works of Beethoven, and many commentators consider it one of the high points of Renaissance polyphony.
Johannes Urreda , a Flemish composer active in Spain in the late 15th century, composed numerous settings of the Pange Lingua, most of them based on the original Mozarabic melody. One of his versions for four voices became one of the most popular pieces of the 16th century, and was the basis for dozens of keyboard works in addition to masses, many by Spanish composers.
- H.T. Henry. Pange Lingua Gloriosi, in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
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