I want to focus upon a translation by James Quinn, S.J., that I ran across in his little book of hymns called Praise for All Seasons. Obviously he has adapted poetically the original but the result is a much more fluid and vivid translation that most English renderings. I am especially captured by the middle two lines. Here is kept the ancient promise of God's earthly dwelling place. Wow. That is powerful writing. And this is exactly the perspective on the Sacrament of the Altar that is so much missing even though we as Lutherans observe the Eucharist more frequently than at any time in recent history. Christ's promise to be with us always is no guarantee of some vague, hidden, spiritual companionship but the promise of the means of grace, specifically the promise of the Eucharist. It seems that this perspective has been obscured by our love of things spiritual and our fear of the material. But in the Eucharist, God combines them (as in Baptism and the Word). His presence is not like a cloud drive where you store your computer files on some space out there. His presence is local, hidden in the material but also very clearly identified there. Christ is present with us through the Word and the Sacrament. When these cease to be the regular Sunday fare and when our devotional lives as individuals depart from these means of grace, we are left with an empty, formless, void of a presence which is more feeling than reality, more imagined than received. I know little of James Quinn but the way he translated those words makes him sound thoroughly Lutheran. For this is the very vibrant and vivid sacramental reality we find in Luther and in the early Lutherans. Oh, that we would recover it in the pulpit and in the pew!
Come adore this wondrous presence,
Bow to Christ the source of grace.
Here is kept the ancient promise
Of God’s earthly dwelling place.
Sight is blind before God’s glory,
Faith alone may see his face.
Below is the original text and translation from Wiki.
|Latin text||An English translation|