Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

“Supernal Word Proceeding”

Herewith an Advent hymn from probably the seventh or eighth century. As with most hymns of this type, the focus is not only on Christ’s first coming, but also his second.

The poet begins with an invocation to Christ the Word, mentioning first his eternal generation in ll. 1-2, and then his Incarnation in time in the second two lines. Lines 5-8 are a prayer for present illumination and the strengthening of the singers’ hearts.

Lines 9-16 deal with the second coming and Last Judgment. Lines 9-12 describe judgment in accordance with works and the recompense owed to the unjust and the just. But in the final stanza, the poet throws off all hope of heavenly bliss being rendered for his works: pro qualitate criminis intentionally echoes pro abditis and pro bonis in the preceding verse as he acknowledges that that his deeds bear the qualitas criminis. Be that as it may, he asks for eternal blessedness anyway and a final state of sanctity. This can only come by God’s mercy: the mercy of the Incarnate Word.

There are some syntactical oddities relative to classical Latin (infinitive expressing purpose in l. 10; non with a jussive or optative subjunctive in l. 13). These show the development of the language; but, all in all, a nice little hymn. The present participle, denoting continuity, with an adverb referring to the past in l. 2 is an especially nice touch to hint poetically at eternal generation.

Text and Translation

Verbum supernum prodiens,             Supernal Word proceeding,

a Patre olim exiens,                             once going forth from the Father,

qui natus orbi subvenis                       who was born to come to the world’s aid

cursu declivi temporis;                        when time in its course sloped toward dusk;


inlumina nunc pectora                        illumine now our hearts

tuoque amore concrema,                    and fortify them with your love,

audita ut praeconia                              so that, having heard your proclamation

sint pulsa tandem lubrica.                 their sluggishness may be driven away at last.


iudexque cum post aderis                   And when you later come as judge

rimari facta pectoris,                           to lay open the deeds of the heart,

reddens vicem pro abditis                  returning recompense for things done in secret

iustisque regnum pro bonis:             and, to the just, a kingdom for good deeds:


non demum artemur malis               not then may we be straitened by evils

pro qualitate criminis,                       for the nature of our wickedness,

sed cum beatis compotes                   but, partakers with the blessed,

simus perennes caelibes.                  may we be always chaste.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.