We are now in the last week of the Easter Season. Christ has ascended to Heaven, and we are awaiting the coming the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In anticipation of that ancient feast, often called the Birthday of the Church, our Music Monday selection is Palestrina’s “Veni Creator Spiritus.”
The Latin Hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” itself dates back to the first millennium of the Church, and was and had traditionally been sung in Gregorian Chant. Palestrina has the tenors sing the traditional Gregorian Chant melody and composes parts for the other voices which he weaves around them to form a shimmering musical tapestry.
I chose the painting “The Pentecost”, by Fray Juan Bautista Maíno, to complement Palestrina’s beautiful music. This is actually the first of two famous paintings of Pentecost by this artist. Maíno created this one as part of a series decorating the altarpiece of the monastery Church of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo, Spain, which he worked on between 1612-1614. Fun fact: during the course of the project he became a monk in the monastery. I like the way the artist isn’t deterred by the problem of fitting a large number of figures into the narrow space dictated by the dimensions of the altarpiece. The Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, and the Apostles are densely crowded at the bottom of the composition, but the artist takes pains to make each face distinct: we get a sense of the individual personality of each. The contrast between the mass of people below and the lone dove representing the Holy Spirit above with his light shining on the upturned faces heightens the dramatic feeling of the piece. In the video I try to capture the vertical space in the piece by slowly panning up the painting.
Finally, I have posted the Latin text of the traditional hymn, along with an English translation, beneath the clip.
|1. Veni Creator Spiritus,|
Mentes tuorum visita
Imple superna gratia,
Quae tu creasti, pectora.
2. Qui diceris Paraclitus,
Altissimi donum Dei
Fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
Et spiritalis unctio.
3. Tu septiformis munere,
Digitus Paternae dexterae
Tu rite promissum Patris,
Sermone ditans guttura.
4. Accende lumen sensibus,
Infunde amorem cordibus,
Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpeti.
5. Hostem repellas longius,
Pacemque dones protinus,
Ductore sic te praevio,
Vitemus omne noxium.
6. Per te sciamus da Patrem,
Noscamus atque Filium,
Te utriusque Spiritum
Credamus omni tempore.
7. Deo Patri sit gloria,
Et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
In saeculorum saecula.
|1. Come, O Creator Spirit blest,|
And in our minds take up thy rest,
Come with thy grace and heavenly aid
To fill the hearts which thou hast made.
2. Great Paraclete! To Thee we cry,
O highest gift of God most high,
O font of life! O fire of love!
And sweet anointing from above!
3. Thou in thy sevenfold gifts art known,
The finger of God’s hand we own,
The promise of the Father, Thou:
Who dost the tongue with pow’r endow.
4. Kindle our senses from above,
And make our hearts o’erflow with love.
With patience firm and virtue high
The weakness of our flesh supply.
5. Far from us drive the foe we dread,
And grant us thy true peace instead,
So shall we not, with Thee for guide,
Turn from the path of life aside.
6. O may Thy grace on us bestow,
The Father and the Son to know,
And thee, through endless times confess’d,
Of both, th’ eternal Spirit blest.
7. All glory, while the ages run,
Be to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death. The same to Thee,
O Holy Ghost, eternally.