Jesus, my heavenly Pelican, I adore you!

Image by LawrenceOP

The text at the base of this stained glass window featuring a bleeding pelican with its nested young,
Hic est enim sanguis meus novi testamenti
in remissionem peccatorum.
For this is my blood of the new covenant
for the forgiveness of sins.

What's the pelican doing in church? Why have I posted this image?

I received an off-blog request for the English translation of three of the songs on the widget at the top of the sidebar: Panis Angelicus, O Salutaris and Adoro Te Devote (the first, middle and last selections on the widget at the top of the sidebar.) All three of these hymns are attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. Below you'll find the Latin text and an English translation.

You'll notice what may seem a strange reference to a pelican in the penultimate verse of Adoro Te Devote. The pelican is a pre-Christian symbol for sacrificial love which believers adopted because of its similarity to our belief in the saving Blood of Christ:
The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.

Given this tradition, one can easily see why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ. The pelican symbolizes Jesus our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the atonement He made through His passion and death. We were dead to sin and have found new life through the Blood of Christ. Moreover, Jesus continues to feed us with His body and blood in the holy Eucharist.

(For more on this symbol, see Fr. William Saunders' article in the Catholic Herald)
Panis Angelicus

Panis angelicus
The bread of angels
Fit panis hominum;
becomes the bread of humankind,
Dat panis coelicus
The bread of heaven
Figuris terminum:
is given a bounded form:
O res mirabilis!
O wondrous thing!
Manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus et humilis.
The poor, the slave, the humble one
feed on their Lord.

Te trina Deitas,
Unaque poscimus,
Of you, threefold and one God, we ask,
Sic nos tu visita,
Come and visit us
Sicut te colimus;
as we worship you.
Per tuas semitas
Lead us on your paths
Duc nos quo tendimus,
to where we want to go:
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
to the light in which you dwell.

O Salutaris

O salutaris hostia
O saving victim
quae caeli pandis ostium,
who opened the gate of heaven
bella premunt hostilia:
hostile wars press on us:
da robur, fer auxilium
give us strength, bring us help

Uni trinoque Domino
To the Lord, three in one,
sit sempiterna gloria,
be everlasting glory,
qui vitam sine termino
for life without end
nobis donet in patria.
he gives us in his kingdom.

Adoro Te Devote

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, Que sub his figuris vere latitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit, Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.
Hidden God, devoutly I adore you,
Truly present underneath these veils:

All my heart subdues itself before you,
Since it all before you faints and fails.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, Sed auditu solo tuto creditur:
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius, Nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.
Not to sight, or taste, or touch be credit,
We only hear yet trust secure;

I believe, for God the Son has said it--
Word of Truth that ever shall endure.

In cruce latebat sola Deitas, At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro poenitens.
On the Cross was veiled your Godhead's splendor,
Here your humanity lies hidden too;

Unto both alike my faith I render,
And, as pled the contrite thief, I plead.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor, Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere, In te spem habere, te diligere.
Though I look not on your wounds with Thomas,
you, my Lord, and you, my God, I call:

Make me more and more believe your promise,
Hope in you, and love you over all.

O memoriale mortis Domini, Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere, Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
O Memorial of my Saviour dying,
Living Bread that gives life to us;

May my soul, its life from you supplying,
Taste your sweetness, as on earth it can.

Pie pellicane, Jesu domine, Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Deign, O Jesus, pelican of heaven,
Me, a sinner, in your Blood to wash,

To a single drop of which is given
All the world from all its sin to save.

Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio, Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie, Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen
Contemplating Lord, your hidden presence,
Grant me what I thirst for and implore,

In the revelation of your essence
To behold your glory evermore. Amen.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this, I vaguely recall learning about the pelican somewhere along the way, but I can't say I knew about an of this at all.

    This will be shared!


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!