Likha Mo ang Tala ng Gabi
The Latin hymn Conditor alme siderum was composed by a now forgotten author around the seventh century. With its reference to the heavenly bodies (siderum) and the world’s drawing eventide (vergente mundi vespere), it came to be used in the celebration of the Divine Office of Vespers (Evening Prayer) during the Advent season.
In 1631, Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) revised the hymnal of the Breviarum Romanum (Roman Breviary) and this hymn was one of those that was so drastically modified that only the second line of its first verse and 15 words of its original 64 were left unaltered. The completely rewritten hymn came to be known as Creator alme siderum. It was not until the implementation of the 1970 Liturgia Horarum (Liturgy of the Hours) that this ancient Advent hymn, along with the rest of the Latin hymnal, was restored to its pre-Urban VIII version.
Below are its verses and a video of it being sung in its ninth century Sarum plainchant: mode IV.
1. Conditor alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.
2. Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium,
3. Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
Virginis matris clausula.
4. Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
nutu fatentur subdita.
5. Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.
6. Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
The present English translation that is used in Catholic hymnals such as Breaking Bread, Gather, and Worship comes from The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It is based on the 1852 translation of John M. Neale (1818-1866) in the Hymnal Noted. The 1982 rendering updated the language, but it also completely reworked the third verse, eliminating the Scriptural references to Christ as the Bridegroom coming from His chamber (sponsus de thalamo) and the Virgin’s womb (virginis matris) that were in the Latin original. Still, it did give us that beautiful line of Christ coming “not as a monarch, but the child.”
Below is the 1982 English version and a video of it being chanted by the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey as directed by my seminary professor, Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB (born 1930).
1. Creator of the stars of night,
Your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all,
we pray you hear us when we call.
2. In sorrow that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
You came, O Savior to set free
Your own in glorious liberty.
3. When this old world drew on toward night,
You came; but not in splendor bright,
not as a monarch, but the child
of Mary, blameless mother mild.
4. At your great Name, O Jesus, now
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow:
all things on earth with one accord,
like those in heav’n, shall call you Lord.
5. Come in your holy might, we pray
redeem us for eternal day;
defend us while we dwell below
from all assaults of our dread foe.
6. To God Creator, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three-in-One,
praise, honor, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.
In 2013 I translated this ancient Advent hymn to Tagalog and it was first sung by the Filipino choir in the Archdiocese of Louisville for our celebration of Simbang Gabi on December 20 of that year. The pdf file of the music sheet can be accessed here.
Unlike the modern carols that talk a lot about what we do for fun during the Christmas season, this hymn prayerfully addresses the Christ-Child for the manifold gifts that He has given us in the beginning (creation) and in His earthly life and death (salvation), and all that we pray He will grant us at the end of time (eternal glory). I was drawn also to its Scriptural references and I tried to retain them in my own translation. There were several difficulties in working with Tagalog words that have more syllables than their Latin counterparts (e.g., the five-syllabled ‘di mapapawi for the three-syllabled aeterna) and placing the stresses on the ascending notes of the chant (which explains the placement of the Espiritu before the Anak in the sixth verse). But, all in all, I have been happy that I had rendered this solemn Latin hymn faithfully into my national language.
Below are the verses that I wrote in Tagalog.
1. Likha Mo’ng tala ng gabi,
Tanglaw Kang ‘di mapapawi,
Kristong Manunubos namin,
dinggin na ang panalangin.
2. Sa sumpa ng sinauna,
kami ay napariwara;
sa aming pagkakasala,
tanging lunas Iyong awa.
3. Irog Ka ng kasintahan!
Liwanag Ka sa karimlan!
Sanggol Ka ng Birheng Inang
pinaglihing walang sala!
4. Lahat ng mga nilikha
sa langit man o sa lupa
manikluhod sa Ngalan Mo,
5. Sa kaaway na masama,
kalingain kaming dukha.
Sa ‘Yo Hukom sumasamo
kaming nananalig sa ‘Yo.
6. Purihin na ang D’yos Ama,
Espiritu, at Anak N’ya!
Purihin D’yos na iisa,
walang hanggang Haring aba.