Dulcis Iesu Memoria

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In the Liturgy

For the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to join me in meditating the Iubilus Rithmicus de Amore Iesu, better known as the hymn, Dulcis Iesu Memoria. The Church sings portions of the hymn on January 3rd, feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, but also at Lauds on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at Vigils (or Office of Readings) on the solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, and at Lauds on August 6th, feast of the Transfiguration.

Authorship

For years this beautiful poem on the mystical love of Jesus was attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvux (1091-1153). The earliest manuscripts of the text are, however, of English origin and date from the 12th or early 13th century: one is a Missal from Lesnes Abbey near Greenwich, written between 1178 and 1220, the other is a book of Laudes in the Bodleian Library.

Increasingly, specialists are advancing the hypothesis that author of Iesu, Dulcis Memoria may have been none other than Saint Aelred, Cistercian Abbot of Rievaulx, even if the Benedictine scholar Dom André Wilmart, while sympathetic to an Aelredian authorship, stopped short of positively ascribing the text to him. There is, however, general agreement that the author of the Iubilus was an English Cistercian monk of the 12th century.

The hymn was, somewhat arbitrarily, divided into three sections for liturgical use in the Office of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. The translation here is by Father Edward Caswall.

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At Vespers

Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest!

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than tby blest name,
O Saviour of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah this
Nor tongue nor pen can show:
THe love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his lovers know.

O Jesu, light of all below!
Thou Fount of life and fire!
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

Thee will I seek, at home, abroad,
Who everywhere art nigh;
Thee in my bosom's cell, O Lord,
As on my bed I lie.

With Mary to thy tomb, I'll haste,
Before the dawning skies,
And all around with longing cast
My soul's inquiring eyes;

Beside thy grave will make my moan,
And sob my heart away;
Then at thy feet sink trembling down,
And there adoring stay;

Nor from my tears and sighs refrain,
Nor those dear feet release,
My Jesu, still from thee I gain
Some blessed word of peace!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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