The Easter Sequence
From the Pastor: The Easter Sequence
The Easter Sequence, which begins, “Victimae paschali laudes...” is one of only a few sequences in the Roman Missal. We will experience it daily in the Octave of Easter. Its history is now somewhat lost to history, with uncertainty regarding even something so simple as to its author. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia it holds a unique place among the sequences. “As the only sequence in quasi-Notkerian form retained in our Missal, it is of great interest hymnologically.” Now, what exactly is “quasi-Notkerian” you ask? Well, I’m afraid you are going to have to go the Encyclopedia to find out. But if you are one of the very few who might find that challenge even remotely enticing, you will probably love the article as it breaks down the stanzas and how they vary in syllabic length, the frequency of rhyme, and damage done to this poetic form as it is translated into English! But for those of you who have no inclination whatsoever to delve deeply into such a combination of poetry, liturgy, languages and history, I still want to be able to show you side by side comparisons of the two different English translations of this sequence which we have in our two different Missals in the back of the church. I hope you will see the beauty of both of them while still seeing the sometimes great differences in them, so that you can more greatly appreciate the value of, nay, the necessity of, keeping the prayers of the Mass in Latin so as to avoid the very real problems of translations into all of the constantly changing vulgar languages of the world. Even when translations are done, as is true of this sequence, with great skill, with an eye toward so many necessary things such as beauty of language, poetic structure, and theological purity, it is still impossible to make a “pure” translation. Something has to give. But enough. Here is the sequence: (Sorry, this format doesn't come out looking very good)
To the Paschal Victim
let Christians offer the sacrifice of praise.
The Lamb hath redeemed the sheep;
Christ, the Sinless One,
hath reconciled sinners to His Father.
Death and Life contended
In a wondrous encounter:
the Prince of LIfe died indeed,
but now reigns living.
Tell us, Mary,
What sawest thou on the way?
I saw the sepulcher of the living Christ,
I saw the glory of Him that had risen.
I saw the angelic witness,
the napkin and the linen cloths.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
He shall go before you into Galilee.
We know in truth that Christ
hath risen from the dead.
Thou, O victorious King, have mercy on us.
# 2 version\:
Christians! to the Paschal Victim
offer your thankful praises.
The Lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, Who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended
in that conflict stupendous:
the Prince of Life, Who died,
Speak, Mary, declaring
what thou sawest wayfaring.
"The tomb of Christ, Who now liveth:
and likewise the glory of the Risen.
Bright Angels attesting,
the shroud and napkin resting.
Yea, Christ my hope, is arisen:
to Galilee He goeth before you."
We know that Christ is risen,
henceforth ever living:
Have mercy, Victor King, pardon giving. Amen. Alleluia.
Which is better? Each has its strengths. But now that you have seen it in English two different ways, perhaps, when combined with the beauty of the Latin chant, this hymn/prayer/poem will have even more of a depth of wonder and awe for you.
With unpoetic and unsingable prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
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