Sunday, September 22, 2013

Te Lucis Ante Terminum

This is not the same version of Te Lucis that I sing when praying Compline in my chapel; it is the version in my little monastic breviary, however. The difference is in the second stanza:

 Te lucis ante terminum,
rerum Creator, poscimus,
ut solita clementia,
sis praesul ad custodiam.

Procul recedant somnia,
et noctium phantasmata:
hostemque nostrum comprime,
ne polluantur corpora.

Praesta, Pater omnipotens,
per Iesum Christum Dominum,
qui tecum in perpetuum
regnat cum Sancto Spiritu. Amen.

Here’s an English version; the English never quite matches up literally with the Latin, since they are trying to put it into words that fit into the melody.

To thee before the close of day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That, with thy wonted favour, thou
Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our sight,
From fears and terrors of the night;
Withhold from us our ghostly foe,
That spot of sin we may not know.

O Father, that we ask be done,
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,
Doth live and reign eternally. Amen

In The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal, by Rev. Matthew Britt, this translation of the second stanza is presented:

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
From nightly fears and fantasies;
Tread under foot our ghostly foe,
That no pollution we many know.

And in the same book, this further translation and explanation is offered:

“Far off let dreams and phantoms of the night depart; restrain Thou our adversary lest our bodies become defiled.” Somnia, foul dreams; phantasmata (phantasma, atis), delusions. Both words convey with them the additional idea of uncleanness. In Mr. C. Kent’s translation, they are rendered by “evil dreams” and “fancies with voluptuous guile”. Hostem, the devil, the great adversary of man. In the beginning of Compline we are cautioned to be vigilant, for our “adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 5, 8). [p. 39]

I like this version with its various translations. It has been my experience that the demons do, of course, want to attack us in our sleep, and “foul dreams” and “delusions” are ways they can and will do that. So praying the words of this little hymn holds a great attraction for me. It helps me to realize the protection I am offered through Our Lord, and it prepares my mind, I think, to defend itself against the wiles of the demons even when I am sleeping.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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