Salva nos, Dómine, vigilántes, custódi nos dormiéntes, ut vigilémus cum Christo et requiescámus in pace

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 11.43.38 AMThis post, and the several which follow, will translate and explain the Latin of the Gospel canticle used invariably during the Church’s night prayer, in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms. The full text to be studied (and prayed) is:

Ant. Salva nos, Dómine, vigilántes, custódi nos dormiéntes, ut vigilémus cum Christo et requiescámus in pace.

+ Nunc dimíttis servum tuum, Dómine, * secúndum verbum tuum in pace,
quia vidérunt óculi mei * salutáre tuum,
quod parásti * ante fáciem ómnium populórum,
lumen ad revelatiónem géntium * et glóriam plebis tuæ Israel.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto * sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

(antiphon is then repeated)

We begin with our translation and analysis of the antiphon:

Salva nos, Dómine, vigilántes, custódi nos dormiéntes, ut vigilémus cum Christo et requiescámus in pace. Save us, Lord, keeping watch, guard us sleeping, so that we may keep watch with Christ, and so that we may rest in peace.

This antiphon is a lovely prayer uttered each night by clerics as they pray their breviary. It includes several noteworthy grammatical features: Imperatives, a vocative (Domine, an address to the Lord); participles (vigilantes and dormientes), and a subjunctive clause (ut..vigilemus..et requiescamus).

Salva = Save, from salvo,are.

Custodi=guard, from custodio,custodire.

Vigilantes = keeping watch. We pray that we may be guarded while we keep watch. The shepherds were keeping watch (vigilantes) over their flocks the night Christ was born, and were rewarded with angelic song. Christ tells us in Luke 12 that those servants are blessed whom their master finds watching (vigilantes) upon his arrival.

Dormientes = sleeping, here considered as rest from our watchfulness, but rest with Christ (cum Christo). There is a sleep which saddens the Lord, as when He found the disciples in Gethsemane sleeping (dormientes).

ut vigilemus = that we may keep watch, here in the subjunctive form as a purpose clause. The scripture often plays keeping watch against sleeping, drowsiness, or laziness. St. Paul warns us, let us not sleep like the rest, but let us keep watch (vigilemus) and remain sober. This is not to say that we should never sleep, but whether we are awake (vigilemus) or asleep (dormiamus), we live with Him (cum illo vivamus).

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