I love Christmas music, and I am always searching for the novel, the most beautiful, and/or the most ancient to give expression to the Joy of the Season. This Advent, I proffer “Pie Jesu.” It is a stunning classical piece that sends chills down one’s spine. Look for it on the Web, and enjoy.

Pie Jesu” is the Latin vocative for “Pious Jesus” though it is usually translated as “O Sweet Jesus” as part of invocations in prayer.

An exact translation of a song such as this is clearly difficult to give. It is the feeling that counts most. The lyrics and translation into English given in the CD-booklet of Voice of an Angel (1998) from Charlotte Church, for example, are:

Latin lyrics…

Pie Jesu, Pie Jesu,

Pie Jesu, Pie Jesu,

Qui tollis peccata mundi;

Dona eis requiem,

Dona eis requiem.

Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei,

Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei,

Qui tollis peccata mundi;

Dona eis requiem,

Dona eis requiem.

Sempiternam, sempiternam requiem.

English translation…

Lord, have mercy,

Lord, have mercy,

You who take away the sins of the world;

Grant them peace,

Grant them peace.

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,

You who take away the sins of the world;

Grant them peace,

Grant them peace.

Peace everlasting, everlasting.

The last line is actually “Everlasting, everlasting peace” of course. By the way, the translation of “requiem” as “peace” is, religiously speaking, not really correct: it is better to use “rest”, as in the first translation.

The translation of the Latin phrase, “Pie Jesu” as “Lord, have mercy” is incorrect. A better translation would be “Devoted Jesus,” “Faithful Jesus,” “O Sweet Jesus,” or perhaps even “Merciful Jesus.” The writer might have had the phrase “Kyrie eleison” in mind, which is actually Greek. Another translation of “sempiternam requiem” is “Grant them eternal rest.” It translates as “Blessed Jesus,” or “Sanctified Jesus.”

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