Laetabundus: The Sequence That Would Not Die

With Pope Saint Pius V’s reform of the Roman Rite in 1570, many liturgical Sequences that sprung up in sundry dioceses of western Christendom were expunged from the Roman Missal. Four were kept. They were the Victimae Paschali Laudes of Easter, the Dies Irae of All Souls Day and Requiem Masses, the Lauda Sion of Corpus Christi, and the Veni Sanctae Spiritus of Pentecost. In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII restored the Stabat Mater Sequence for the feast of Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows. In the Dominican Rite, however, on Christmas Day (and Epiphany and Candlemas) a Sequence I have just listened to for the first time (part of it, that is) can be sung at the Third Nativity Mass. It may be the oldest of the Sequences in the Roman Missal, finding its way from the Norbertine liturgy (early 12th century) to that of the Dominicans about a century later. It is called Laetabundus (Joy Abounding) It was written in rhymed stanzas. You can listen here (or below) to the chanting of it by the Dominican Friars of the Holy Spirit in Oxford.


exsultet fidelis chorus.

Regem regum
intactae profudit thorus:
res miranda.

Angelus consilii
natus est de virgine:
sol de stella.

Sol occasum nesciens,
stella semper rutilans,
semper clara.

Sicut sidus radium,
profert Virgo Filium,
pari forma.

Neque sidus radio,
neque mater filio,
fit corrupta.

Cedrus alta Libani
conformatur hyssopo,
valle nostra;

Verbum ens Altissimi
corporari passum est,
carne sumpta.

Isaias cecinit,
Synagoga meminit,
numquam tamen desinit
esse caeca.

Si non suis vatibus,
credat vel gentilibus;
Sibyllinis versibus
haec praedicta.

Infelix, propera,
crede vel vetera:
cur damnaberis,
gens misera?

Quem docet littera,
natum considera:
ipsum genuit puerpera.

Faithful people,
Sweeten all your song with gladness.

Matchless maiden
Bringeth forth the Prince of princes:
O! the marvel.

Virgin compasseth a man,
Yea, the angel of the plan:
Star the Dayspring.

Day that sunset shall not close,
Star that light on all bestows,
Ever cloudless.

As the star, light crystalline,
Mary hath a Son divine
In her likeness.

Star that shining grows not dim,
Nor his Mother, bearing him,
Less a maiden.

The great tree of Lebanon
Hyssop’s lowliness puts on
In our valley;

And the Word of God Most High
Self-imprisoned doth lie
In our body.

So Isaias sang of old,
So the Synagogue doth hold,
But the sunrise finds her cold
Hard and blinded.

Of her own she will not mark,
Let her to the gentiles hark;
For the Sybil’s verses dark
Tell of these things.

Make haste, O luckless one,
Give ear to the saints bygone:
Why perish utterly,
O race undone?

He whom thy seers foretell
Born is in Israel:
Mary’s little Son, O mark him well.