In 1367 Bianco da Siena entered the Order of Jesuates, a community of unordained men who followed the rule of St. Augustine. They were known for their fervent and mystical piety, which is reflected in the hymns of its most famous member. In 1851, 92 of these were published, four of which have been translated into English.
“Come down, O Love divine” is the most famous of these. It was encluded in the first edition of the English Hymnal (1906) with four stanzas, one of which is omited in our Hymnal. The tune DOWN AMPNEY was composed by the English Hymnal’s editor, Ralph Vaughan Williams, especially for this hymn. Down Ampney is a village in the Cotswolds and the birthplace of the composer.
In May 2020, our choir recorded this hymn, each singing from our homes while under quarantine. We sang all four stanzas, which are presented below. The descant sung in the final stanza is by a former neighbor, Charles Giffen, who retired from the mathematics faculty of the University of Virginia in 2001, after teaching there for 35 years.
1. Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
2. O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
3. Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become my inner clothing:
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humble part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
4. And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the pow’r of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till he become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
Spiritus Domini. Wisdom 1
The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 68] Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen. The Spirit of the Lord . . .
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
Alleluia, alleluia. O send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be made: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Alleluia. Come Holy Ghost, and fill the hearts of thy faithful people: and kindle in them the fire of thy love.
St. John 14:15-31a
At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples: If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.
[Psalm 68] Stablish the thing, O God, that thou hast wrought in us: for thy temple’s sake at Jerusalem, shall kings bring presents unto thee, Alleluia.
[Acts 2] Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting, alleluia: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak the wonderful works of God, Alleluia. Alleluia.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
Thomas Tallis, If ye love me
Factus est repente
Veni Sancte Spiritus, “The Golden Sequence”
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Tomás Luis de Victoria
The text for today’s Communion proper has been set to music by a number of composers.
Factus est repente de coelo sonus,
Suddenly there came a sound from heaven,
tamquam advenientis spiritus vehementis ubi erant sedentes,
as of a mighty wind coming where they were sitting,
et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
loquentes magnalia Dei,
speaking the wonderful works of God,
Here is a setting of this text by William Byrd. It is sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury.
In 2008, Scots composer James MacMillan (b. 1959) used the text of today’s Communion proper in an 8-part a cappella setting which captures the energy of the descent of the Holy Spirit, as well as displaying echoes of the Scots folk tradition. Factus est repente is sung here by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers.
Veni Sancte Spiritus
The Pentecost hymn we know as “Come, thou Holy Spirit, come” (#109) is a translation of one of the few examples of medieval sequence hymns which survived the Reformation. In the original Latin (below), it is regarded as one of the finest masterpieces of Latin sacred poetry, and was written sometime around 1200 A.D. Its beautiful style and its content earned it the nickname “the Golden Sequence.”
Here is the Gregorian chant of this hymn, followed by choral settings by a range of composers from the 16th to the 20th century: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, William Byrd, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Heinrich Schütz, Arvo Pärt, and Morten Lauridsen.
The Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.
Veni Sancte Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitu
and send down from heaven
lucis tuae radium.
the ray of your light.
Veni pater pauperum,
Come, father of the poor,
veni dator munerum,
come, giver of gifts,
veni lumen cordium.
come, light of the hearts.
dulcis hospes animae,
sweet host of the soul,
In labore requies,
Rest in work,
in aestu temperies,
cooling in heat,
in fletu solacium.
comfort in crying.
O lux beatissima,
O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima
fill the innermost hearts
of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine
Without your power
nihil est in homine,
nothing is in man,
nihil est innoxium.
Lava quod est sordidum,
Clean what is dirty,
riga quod est aridum,
water what is dry,
sana quod est saucium.
heal what is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
Bend what is rigid,
fove quod est frigidum,
heat what is cold,
rege quod est devium.
lead what has gone astray.
Da tuis fidelibus
Grant to your faithful
in te confidentibus
who trust in you,
your sevenfold holy gift.
Da virtutis meritum,
Grant us the reward of virtue,
da salutis exitum,
grant us final salvation,
da perenne gaudium.
grant us eternal joy.
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, conductor
Ensemble Plus Ultra, Michael Noone, conductor
Cantus Cölln, Musica Fiata, and Knabenchor Hannover, conducted by Konrad Junghänel
Chamber Choir of Europe, I Virtuosi Italiani, conducted by Nicol Matt
And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven
as of a rushing mighty wind,
and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,
and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
Acts ii. 2-4
When God of old came down from Heaven,
In power and wrath He came;
Before His feet the clouds were riven,
Half darkness and half flame:
Around the trembling mountain’s base
The prostrate people lay;
A day of wrath and not of grace;
A dim and dreadful day.
But when he came the second time,
He came in power and love,
Softer than gale at morning prime
Hovered His holy Dove.
The fires that rushed on Sinai down
In sudden torrents dread,
Now gently light, a glorious crown,
On every sainted head.
Like arrows went those lightnings forth
Winged with the sinner’s doom,
But these, like tongues, o’er all the earth
Proclaiming life to come:
And as on Israel’s awe-struck ear
The voice exceeding loud,
The trump, that angels quake to hear,
Thrilled from the deep, dark cloud;
So, when the Spirit of our God
Came down His flock to find,
A voice from Heaven was heard abroad,
A rushing, mighty wind.
Nor doth the outward ear alone
At that high warning start;
Conscience gives back th’appalling tone;
’Tis echoed in the heart.
It fills the Church of God; it fills
The sinful world around;
Only in stubborn hearts and wills
No place for it is found.
To other strains our souls are set:
A giddy whirl of sin
Fills ear and brain, and will not let
Heaven’s harmonies come in.
Come Lord, Come Wisdom, Love, and Power,
Open our ears to hear;
Let us not miss th’accepted hour;
Save, Lord, by Love or Fear.