Easter song of victory: Salve festa dies

Source: District of the USA

From Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, we offer this brief introduction to a beautiful hymn, Salve festa dies (Hail, festive day) often simply referred to as the "Easter Song".

In many of the Western churches, the following stanzas, written by St. Venantius Fortunatus (+609), bishop of Poitiers [France], used formerly to be sung during the procession before today's [Easter Sunday] Mass. We insert them here, feeling assured that they will interest our readers, and assist them to enter more fully into the spirit of the great solemnity, for which our forefathers made them serve as a preparation.

We shall find them replete with the same enthusiasm that inspired the author when he composed the Vexilla Regis,[1] and the hymn of the holy chrism[2]: there is the same bold and energetic, almost harsh, diction, the same piety, the same richness of poetry and sentiment. The beautiful chant, to which this hymn was sung, is still extant [listen to an excerpt at YouTube].

SSPX.ORG notes

1 The Banners of the King go forth—composed originally for a procession of the True Cross, and used at Vespers during Passiontide.

2 O Redemptor, sume carmen temet concinentiumO Redeemer of mankind, receive the hymn of those who sing thy praise; this is sung during the Chrismal Mass of Holy Thursday. Fortunatus also composed the Crux fidelis sung during the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, actually an excerpt from his longer poem, Pange lingua gloriosi (not to be confused with St. Thomas Aquinas' Eucharistic hymn).

Salve festa dies

Salve festa dies

toto venerabilis aevo

Qua Deus infernum

vicit et astra tenet
Hail thou festive,

ever venerable day!

hell is conquered

and heaven is won by God.

Ecce renascentis

testatur gratia mundi

Omnia cum Domino

dona redisse suo

Salve festa dies...

Lo! the earth bears witness

that with the Lord,

she has had

all her gifts restored.

Hail, thou festive...

Namque triumphanti

post tristia tartara Christo

Undique fronde nemus

gramina flore favent

Salve festa dies...

For now the woods with their leaves,

and the meadows with their flowers,

pay homage to Jesus’ triumph

over the gloomy tomb.

Hail, thou festive...

Legibus inferni oppressis,

super astra meantem,

Laudant rite Deum lux,

polus, arva, fretum.

Salve festa dies...

Light, firmament, fields and sea,

give justly praise to the God

that defeats the laws of death,

and rises above the stars.

Hail, thou festive...

Qui crucifixus erat Deus,

ecce per omnia regnat

Dantque Creatori

cuncta creata precem

Salve festa dies...

The crucified God

now reigns over all things;

and every creature

to its Creator tells a prayer.

Hail, thou festive...

Christe, salus rerum,

bone Conditor atque Redemptor

Unica progenies

ex Deitate Patris

Salve festa dies...

O Jesus! Savior of the world!

Loving Creator and Redeemer!


Son of God the Father!

Hail, thou festive...

Qui genus humanum

cernens mersisse profundo

Ut hominem eriperes

es quoque factus homo

Salve festa dies...

Seeing the human race was sunk

in misery deep,

thou were made Man,

that thou might rescue man.

Hail, thou festive...

Nec voluisti etenim

tantum te corpore nasci,

Sed caro quae nasci petrulit,

atque mori.

Salve festa dies...

Nor wouldst thou be content to be born;

but being born in the flesh,

in the same wouldst

thou suffer death.

Hail, thou festive...

Fexsequias pateris

vitae auctor et orbis

Intras mortis iter

dando salutis opem

Salve festa dies...

Thou, the author of life

and of all creation,

was buried in the tomb;

treading the path of death,

to give us salvation.

Hail, thou festive...

Tristia cesserunt

infernae vincula legis

Expavitque chaos

luminis ore premi.

Salve festa dies...

The gloomful bonds of hell

were broken;

the abyss shook with fear,

as the light shone upon its brink.

Hail, thou festive...

Depereunt tenebrae

Christi fulgore fugatae

Et tetrae noctis

pallia crassa cadunt.

Salve festa dies...

The brightness of Christ

put darkness to flight,

and made to fall the thick veils

of everlasting night.

Hail, thou festive...

Pollicitam sed redde fidem,

precor, alma potestas:

Tertia lux rediit,

surge, sepulte meus.

Salve festa dies...

But, redeem thy promise,

I beseech thee, merciful King!

This is the third day;

arise, my buried Jesus!

Hail, thou festive...

Non decet ut humili

tumulo tua membra tegantur,

Neu pretium mundi

vilia saxa premant.

Salve festa dies...

‘Tis not meet, that thy Body

lie in the lowly tomb,

or that a sepulchral stone

should keep imprisoned

the ransom of the world.

Hail, thou festive...

Lintea, precor,

sudaria linque sepulchro:

Tu satis es nobis

et sine te nihil est.

Salve festa dies...

Throw off thy shrouds, I pray thee!

Leave thy winding-sheet in the tomb.

Thou art our all; and all else,

without thee, is nothing.

Hail, thou festive...

Solvecatenatas inferni

carceris umbras

Et revoca sursum

quidquid ad ima ruit.

Salve festa dies...

Set free the spirits

that are shackled

in limbo’s prison.

Raise up all fallen things.

Hail, thou festive...

Redde tuam faciem,

videant ut saecula lumen,

Redde diem qui nos

te moriente fugit.

Salve festa dies...

Show us once more thy face,

that all ages may see the light!

Bring back the day,

which fled when thou didst die.

Hail, thou festive...

Sed plane inplesti

remeans, pie victor,

ad orbem: Tartara pressa

iacent nec sua iura tenant.

Salve festa dies...

But thou hast done all this,

o loving conqueror,

by returning to our world:

death lies defeated,

and its rights are gone.

Hail, thou festive...

Inferus insaturabiliter

cava gruttura pandens,

Qui rapuit semper,

fit tua praeda, Deus.

Salve festa dies...

The greedy monster,

whose huge throat

had swallowed all mankind,

is now thy prey, O God!

Hail, thou festive...

Evomit absorptam

trepide fera belua plebem,

Et de fauce lupi

subtrahit agrnus oves.

Salve festa dies...

The savage beast now trembling

vomits forth the victims he had made,

and the lamb tears the sheep

from the jaw of the wolf.

Hail, thou festive...

Rex sacer, ecce

tui radiat pars

magna triumphi,

Cum puras animas

sancta lavacra beant.

Salve festa dies...

O King divine!

Lo! Here a bright ray

of thy triumph—the souls

made pure by the holy font.

Hail, thou festive...

Candidus egreditur

nitidis exercitus undis,

Atque vetus vitium

purgat in amne novo.

Salve festa dies...

The white-robed troop comes

from the limpid waters;

and the old iniquity is cleansed

in the new stream.

Hail, thou festive...

Fulgentes animas vestis

quoque candida signat,

Et grege de niveo

gaudia pastor habet.

Salve festa dies...

The white garments

symbolize unspotted souls;

and the Shepherd rejoices

in his snow-like flock:

Hail, thou festive...

Salve, festa dies,

toto venerabilis aevo.

Qua Deus infernum

vicit et astra tenet.
Hail, thou festive,

ever venerable day!

Whereon hell is conquered

and heaven is won by Christ.