The Lauda Sion Salvatorem was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas, in 1264, for the great feast of Corpus Christi. This hymn is a good example of the liturgical masterpieces that are found on all the major feasts throughout the year. It covers not only the history of the Eucharist, but also the Church’s teaching about it and many of the dogmas concerning it. It begins by telling the faithful to lift their voices to praise their Savior present in the Eucharist. It then gives a little “preview” of the Institution of the Eucharist. The third stanza makes it clear that this sequence was written for the feast of Corpus Christi.
1. Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem, Lauda ducem et pastorem In hymnis et canticis. Quantum poses, tantum aude: Quia major omni laude Nec laudare sufficis. 2. Laudis thema specialis, Panis vivus et vitalis Hodie proponitur; Quem in sacrae mensa coenae Turbae fratrum duodenae Datum non ambigitur. 3. Sit laus plena, sit sonora, Sit iucunda, sit decora Mentis iubilatio. Dies enim solemnis agitur, In qua mensae prima recolitur Huius institutio.
Sion, lift thy voice and sing: Praise thy Savior and thy King; Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true: Dare thy most to praise Him well; For He doth all praise excel; None can ever reach His due. Special theme of praise is thine, That true living Bread divine, That life-giving flesh adored, Which the brethren twelve received, As most faithfully believed, At the Supper of the Lord. Let the chant be loud and high; Sweet and tranquil be the joy Felt to-day in every breast; On this festival divine Which recounts the origin Of the glorious Eucharist
In the historical section, it outlines the fact that even since the Old Testament, there have been figures, or indications, of the Holy Eucharist. They are called shadows here, and that is really what they were, compared to the Eucharist itself. The hymn then goes on to touch on the Institution of the Eucharist. The Lauda Sion Salvatorem speaks of how at the Last Supper, after the consecration, Christ commanded to His apostles: “Do this in memory of Me.” Catholic priests continue to obey this command, as even today, they reverently consecrate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass.
4. In hac mensa novi Regis Novum Pascha novae legis Phase vetus terminat. Vetustatem novitas, Umbram fugat veritas, Noctem lux eliminat. 5. Quod in coena Christus gessit, Faciendum hoc expressit In sui memoriam Docti sacris institutis, Panem, vinum in salutis. Consecramus hostiam.
At this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite;
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.
His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.
After relating the history of the Eucharist, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem continues on to speak of the Church’s dogmatic teaching about the Eucharist. The sixth stanza outlines the dogma of Transubstantiation, when the substance of the bread and wine changes into Christ’s body and blood while the appearances remain those of bread and wine. Faith is required for one to believe this dogma, as it is beyond human understanding. Catholics have the word of God that after the consecration, there no longer remains anything of the bread and wine except their appearance. Outward signs, sensible revelations, and physical things are not present here, one must rely upon faith.
6. Dogma datur Christianis, Quod in carnem transit panis Et vinum in sanguinem. Quod non capis, quod non vides, Animosa firmat fides Praeter rerum ordinem. 7. Sub diversis speciebus, Signis tantum, et non rebus, Latent res eximiae: Caro cibus, sanguis potus; Manet tamen Christus totus Sub utraque specie.
Hear what holy Church maintaineth, That the bread its substance changeth Into Flesh, the wine to Blood. Doth it pass thy comprehending? Faith, the law of sight transcending, Leaps to things not understood. Here in outward signs are hidden Priceless things, to sense forbidden; Signs, not things, are all we see:- Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine; Yet is Christ, in either sign, All entire confessed to be.
In the Traditional Latin Mass, communicants only receive the host. However, this does not mean that they receive less of Christ than those who partake of both the host and chalice. Christ is present, in the same degree, under both species (bread and wine). In the same way, no matter how many of the faithful partake of Communion at Mass, each person receives all of Christ, His entire Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He is whole and complete in each of the thousands of hosts distributed each day.
8. A sumente non concisus, Non confractus, non divisus Integer accipitur. Sumit unus, sumunt mille; Quantum isti, tantum ille: Nec sumptus consumitur.
They too who of Him partake Sever not, nor rend, nor break, But entire their Lord receive. Whether one or thousands eat, All receive the selfsame meat, Nor the less for others leave.
Though each communicant receives all of Christ, the effects of receiving Him differ considerably. Those who partake of the Eucharist in mortal sin, condemn themselves to hell. Those in the state of grace, however, receive many graces, but these also depend upon the disposition of the communicant. Those who are better prepared to receive Holy Communion obtain more graces and blessings. The sequence reminds one that when receiving Holy Communion Christ is present in every single particle of the host. This is why Traditional communities choose to receive only on the tongue. No matter how small the particle, Christ is really, truly present, and Catholics must be very cognizant of this fact at all times. It can truly be said that the bread of the angels has been given to the pilgrims here on earth to strengthen them for their journey to Heaven!
9. Sumunt boni, sumunt mali: Sorte tamen inaequali, Vitae vel interitus. Mors est malis, vita bonis: Vide, paris sumptionis Quam sit dispar exitus. 10. Fracto demum Sacramento, Ne vacilles, sed memento, Tantam esse sub fragmento, Quantum toto tegitur. Nulla rei fit scissura, Signi tantum fit fractura, Qua nec status nec statura Signati minuitur. 11. Ecce panis Angelorum, Factus cibus viatorum, Vere panis filiorum, Non mittendus canibus. In figuris praesignatur, Cum Isaac immolatur; Agnus Paschae deputatur, Datur manna patribus.
Both the wicked and the good Eat of this celestial Food; But with ends how opposite! Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death; The same, yet issuing to each In a difference infinite. Nor a single doubt retain, When they break the Host in twain, But that in each part remains What was in the whole before; Since the simple sign alone Suffers change in state or form, The Signified remaining One And the Same forevermore. Lo! upon the Altar lies, Hidden deep from human eyes, Angels' Bread from Paradise Made the food of mortal man: Children's meat to dogs denied; In old types foresignified; In the manna from the skies, In Isaac, and the Paschal Lamb.
The time right after receiving the Holy Eucharist is the best time to present your petitions to Christ. In the Lauda Sion Salvatorem, there are many different requests made. It first asks Christ to protect the Church, then it asks for strength. At the very end, it asks Him for the grace to one day join Him in Heaven with all the saints.
12. Bone Pastor, panis vere, Jesu, nostri miserere, Tu nos pasce, nos tuere, Tu nos bona fac videre, In terra viventium. Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales, Qui nos pascis hic mortales, Tuos ibi commensales, Cohaeredes et sodales, Fac sanctorum civium. Amen.
Jesu! Shepherd of the sheep! Thy true flock in safety keep. Living Bread! Thy life supply; Strengthen us, or else we die; Fill us with celestial grace: Thou, who feedest us below! Source of all we have or know! Grant that with Thy Saints above, Sitting at the Feast of Love, We may see Thee face to face. Amen
For its work in bringing home to the faithful the reality of what, or who, it is they receive at Mass, this powerful sequence truly deserves the title: “the supreme example of theological poetry” (Laux 90). The Lauda Sion Salvatorem is a wonderful example of how much the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist can inspire those who receive It worthily.
Traditional Chant of the Lada Sion Salvatorem
Laux, John. Mass and the Sacraments. Charlotte: Tan Books, 2013
Thank you for posting this! It really is one of the most beautiful poems.