The Fast, as Taught by Holy Lore
Attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604). In the Roman Breviary this hymn is used in its entirety for Matins from the first Sunday in Lent until the Saturday before Passion Sunday. Today the hymn is still used, but from Ash Wednesday until the Fifth Sunday of Lent and it is broken into two hymns. The first half, Ex more docti mystico, is used for the Sunday Office of the Readings. The second half, Precemur omnes cernui is used for Sunday Lauds. Both those hymns conclude with the final verse as found below.
| EX more docti mystico
servemus abstinentiam, 1
deno dierum circulo
ducto quater notissimo.
| THE fast, as taught by holy lore,
we keep in solemn course once more:
the fast to all men known, and bound
in forty days of yearly round.
| Lex et prophetae primitus
hanc praetulerunt, postmodum
Christus sacravit, omnium
rex atque factor temporum.
| The law and seers that were of old
in divers ways this Lent foretold,
which Christ, all seasons' King and guide,
in after ages sanctified.
| Utamur ergo parcius
verbis, cibis et potibus,
somno, iocis et arctius
perstemus in custodia.
| More sparing therefore let us make
the words we speak, the food we take,
our sleep and mirth, -and closer barred
be every sense in holy guard:
| Vitemus autem pessima2
quae subruunt mentes vagas,
nullumque demus callido
hosti locum tyrannidis.3
| Avoid the evil thoughts that roll
like waters o'er the heedless soul;
nor let the foe occasion find
our souls in slavery to bind.
| PRECEMUR omnes cernui,
clamemus atque singuli,
ploremus ante iudicem,
flectamus iram vindicem:4
| IN prayer together let us fall,
and cry for mercy, one and all,
and weep before the Judge's feet,
and His avenging wrath entreat.
| Nostris malis offendimus
tuam, Deus, clementiam;
effunde nobis desuper,
| Thy grace have we offended sore,
by sins, O God, which we deplore;
but pour upon us fro on high,
o pardoning One, Thy clemency.
| Memento quod sumus tui,
licet caduci, plasmatis;
ne des honorem nominis
tui, precamur, alteri.
| Remember Thou, though frail we be,
that yet Thine handiwork are we;
nor let the honor of Thy Name
be by another put to shame.
| Laxa malum quod fecimus,
auge bonum quod poscimus,
placere quo tandem tibi
possimus hic et perpetim.
| Forgive the sin that we have wrought;
increase the good that we have sought:
that we at length, our wanderings o'er,
may please Thee here and evermore.
| Praesta, beata Trinitas,
concede, simplex Unitas,
ut fructuosa sint tuis
haec parcitatis munera. Amen.5
| Blest Three in One, and One in Three,
Almighty God, we pray to Thee,
that this our fast of forty days
may work our profit and Thy praise. Amen.
Latin from the Liturgia Horarum. Translation by J. M. Neale (1818-1866).
Changes made by Pope Urban VIII in 1632 to the Roman Breviary:
3 nullumque demus callidi/ hostis locum tyrannidi.
4 Flectamus iram vindicem,/ploremus ante Iudicem,/ clamemus ore supplici,/ dicamus omnes cernui:
5 ieiuniorum munera.