Beati Nicolai: Congaudentes exsultemus
Liturgical sequence for St. Nicholas, December 6th, with English versification by Digby S. Wrangham
The greatly loved and most popular Saint Nicholas liturgical sequence was attributed to Adam of St. Victor by 19th century scholars. However, further scholarly investigation has found the sequence in ninety-one scores, one of which is from the 11th century, 100 years earlier than Adam of St. Victor. The sequence is given in English, with the original Latin.
Let us all exult together, as with one united voice
We upon his solemn feast-day in St. Nicholas rejoice;
Who, whilst in his cradle lying, by observing duly fast,
Heavenly joys began to merit even at his mother’s breast.
In his youth he chooses letters, that his study they may be,
To all evil lust a stranger, from all sinful passions free.
This blest confessor,
Whom, as worthy of the office, ‘twas a voice from heaven praised,
Amongst bishops to the very highest rank is forthwith raised.
There was too in his character benevolence exceeding,
And many a bounty he bestowed, the tale of sorrow heeding.
With gold he saved some maidens, who had else vile lives been leading,
Relieving all their father’s want, when help most sorely needing.
Certain sailors once, when sailing,
And fighting ‘gainst fierce waves with struggles unavailing,
Shipwrecked nigh through stress of weather;
Hope of life already failing,
Amid such dangers set, aloud their fate bewailing,
Lift their voices altogether:
“Blessed Nicholas! O steer us
From the straits of death so near us
To the haven of safe sea!
To that harbour in the distance
Draw us, who dost grant assistance
Through the grace of charity!”
“Lo!” — while thus they cried, nor vainly, —
“I am here!” a voice said plainly,
“To watch o’er you and to aid!”
Instantly blow favouring breezes,
Instantly the tempest ceases,
And to rest the sea is laid.
We, now in this world abiding,
Have been wrecked, as we were riding
O’er the deep abyss of vice:
Draw us, Nicholas most glorious!
To the home of peace victorious,
To the port of Paradise!
From his tomb, to heal diseases,
Oil abundant floweth forth,
Which the sick from pain releases
Through his prayers’ availing worth.
May we of the self-same ointment
Through thy pious prayer to God
Which did by the Lord’s appointment
Heal the wounds of Mary’s load
Let them joy throughout all ages, who observe this holy day,
And, when this life’s course is ended, crowned in heaven by Christ be they!
Amen! let all creatures say!
Con gaudentes exultemus vocali concordia
Ad beati Nicolai festiva solemnia;
Qui in cunis adhuc jacens servando jejunia
A papillis coepit summa promereri gaudia.
Alienus et immubis ab omni lascivia.
Cujus fuit dignitatis vox de coelo nuntia!
Per quam provectus,
Praesulatûs sublimatur ad summa fastigia.
Erat in ejus animo pietas eximia,
Et oppressis impendebat multa beneficia.
Auro per eum virginum tollitur infamia,
Atque patris earundem levatur inopia.
Quidam nautae navigantes,
Et contra fluctuum saevitiam luctantes,
Navi pene dissoluta,
Jam de vita desperantes,
In tanto positi periculo, clamantes
Voces dicunt omnes una:
“O beate Nicolae,
Nos ad maris portum trahe
De mortis angustia.
Trahe nos ad portum maris,
Tu qui tot auxiliaris
Dum clamarent, nec incassum,
“Ecce!” quidam dicit, “assum
Ad vestra praesidia.”
Statim aura datur grata
Et tempestas fit sedata:
Nos, qui sumus in hoc mundo,
Vitiorum in profundo
Jam passi naufragia,
Ad salus portum trahe,
Ubi pax et gloria.
Ex ipsius tumba manat
Quae infirmos omnes sanat
Per ejus suffragia.
Ipsam nobis unctionem
Impetres ad Dominum,
Quae sanavit laesionem
Hujus festum celebrantes gaudeant per saecula,
Et coronet eos Christus post vitae curricula!
Amen dicant omnia!
Transcription and music file links from Sint-Nicolaasliederen by Henk van Benthem, Kemper Conseil Publishing, 2008.
Text from The Liturgical Sequences of Adam of St. Victor, compiled by M. Gautier with translations into English in the original metres by Digby S. Wrangham. Originally published by Kegan Paul, French & Company, London, MDCCCLXXXI (1881). Transcription by Daniel Mitsui, The Liturgical Sequences of Adam of St. Victor.
With appreciation to Luc Vermeulen, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium