On Adoring Devoutly

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On Adoring Devoutly

By | 2017-02-09T15:22:37+00:00 January 28, 2015|Liturgy, Prayer, Saints|

It was twice a week at the elementary school I attended for a few years, and occasionally in high school—though almost daily by senior year. In college, it was more spotty but I made a special effort during Lent. By graduate school it was daily and, of course, that has continued as a Dominican. All told, when you add all these weekday Masses to Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, I’d guess I’ve been present for the coming of the Incarnate Lord under the species of bread and wine almost six thousand times. I’d like to say that I was caught up in contemplation of the “source and summit of the Christian life” each time, but that is patently absurd. Honestly, I’d settle for claiming I was simply paying attention most of those times; I probably can’t even do that.

Too often the memorial acclamation was not a culmination of devotion following that glorious transformation, but rather a slap in the face snapping me out of some banal distraction. Over the years, I developed habits and cultivated devotions to help stay attentive and prayerful during the Eucharistic Prayer, but I can’t say they have worked perfectly.

I think this struggle is what made the discussion of the Adoro Te Devote by Fr. Paul Murray, O.P., in his book Aquinas at Prayer, so inspiring. In his comments on the prayer, he references recent scholarship that clarifies the place the poem might have had in Aquinas’ own prayer life. First and foremost, there is the recognition that William of Tocco included the full text of the prayer in later editions of his biography of St. Thomas (the first biography of the Common Doctor), strengthening the traditional attribution of the prayer to Aquinas. Further, Murray points out that, despite our experience of the prayer as a liturgical hymn, no evidence of a musical setting for it exists before the seventeenth century. It seems that the Adoro Te Devote was originally a simple private prayer. Some have even argued that it was composed by Aquinas as a personal devotion that he used when attending a second daily Mass where he was not celebrating. It was composed to draw his attention to the great mystery that he was witnessing and to spur his love and devotion as the celebrant silently continued the Canon of the Mass.

This context makes even more poignant some of the unique characteristics of the prayer, even in comparison to other prayers of Aquinas. While his Eucharistic hymns are beautiful reflections about the Blessed Sacrament, the Adoro Te Devote is addressed directly to Christ, present in the Eucharist. This inspires a beautiful image of Thomas devotedly beginning to whisper this poem as the celebrant elevates the newly consecrated host, continuing to call out most personally to “You,” to Christ himself present before him, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

And what exactly does he say to his Savior and his God? The first half of the poem expresses the great devotion and love that Aquinas has for Christ who he knows, by faith, to be present before him. In the second, he turns to beg his present Savior for an increase of that faith, hope, and love which give him the confidence to address his Lord in the first place and for that final gift of living permanently in the presence of Christ in the Beatific Vision.

By pointing out these insights into the Adoro Te Devote I do not mean to implicate St. Thomas in my own personal struggles during Mass, but to draw attention to one more way that Aquinas displays deep insight into human nature. That great mystery of the Eucharist seems mundane if we simply leave it to our senses. Since it is only by faith that we can recognize our Lord in the Eucharist, it is essential to both affirm that faith in that great moment and take advantage of the precious time we have with him to beg for an increase in the gifts that make that faith possible.

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Adoro te devote, latens veritas,
te que sub his formis vere latitas.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
You, I devoutly adore, hidden Truth, you
who under these forms, are truly hidden.
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[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Tibi se cor meum totum subicit,
quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
sed auditu solo tute creditur,
credo quicquid dixit dei filius,
nihil veritatis verbo verius.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
My whole heart submits itself to you for,
in contemplating you, I am at a complete loss.
Sight, touch, taste, in you are deceived;
hearing alone can be completely believed.
I believe all the son of God has said; nothing
can be more true than the Word of truth.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
In cruce latebat sola deitas,
sed hic latet simul et humanitas.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
Upon the cross the Godhead alone was
hidden, but here the humanity is also hidden.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Ambo vere credens atque confitens,
peto quod petivit latro poenitens.
Plagas sicut Thomas non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
Truly believing and confessing both,
I beg what the penitent thief begged.
I do not see wounds, as Thomas did,
but I confess you as my God.
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[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
in te spem habere, te diligere.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
Make me believe ever more in you,
having hope in you, and loving you.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
O memoriale mortis domini,
panis vivus vitam prestans homini.
Presta michi semper de te vivere,
et te michi semper dulce sapere.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
O memorial of the death of the Lord,
living bread that gives life to man,
Allow me always to live for you, and allow
me to taste your sweetness always.
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[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Pie pelicane, Ihesu domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
O kind pelican, Lord Jesus, cleanse me,
who am unclean, in your blood,
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[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Cuius una stilla salvum facere,
totum mundum posset omni scelere.
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[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
One drop of which would be enough to save
the whole world of all its defilement.
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[/one_half_last]
[one_half]
Ihesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
quando fiet illud quod tam sicio?
Vt te revelata cernens facie,
visu sim beatus tue glorie.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half]
[one_half_last]
Jesus, whom I now gave at veiled, when
shall that which I so desire come to pass?
So that seeing you, your face revealed, I may
be blessed with the vision of your glory.
[divider_padding]
[/one_half_last]

 

Latin critical text from Robert Wielockx. English translation by Paul Murray, O.P.

Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Adoro Te devote (Used with permission)

About this Brother:

Br. Thomas Davenport, O.P.
Br. Thomas Davenport was born in Mt. Clemens, MI, the son of an Army officer, and moved a number of times with his parents and older brother while growing up. Eventually he graduated from high school in northern Virginia, where his parents still live and attend Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. He studied physics at the California Institute of Technology and went on to earn a PhD in physics from Stanford University. On DominicanFriars.org