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Jesu dulcis memoria

Jesu, the very thought of Thee

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal

  1. Jesu dulcis memoria
    Dans vera cordis gaudia:
    Sed super mel, et omnia,
    Ejus dulcis prsesentia.
  2. Nil canitur suavius,
    Nil auditur jucundius,
    Nil cogitatur dulcius,
    Quam Jesus Dei Filius.
  3. Jesu spes pœnitentibus,
    Quam pius es petentibus!
    Quam bonus te quærentibus!
    Sed quid invenientibus?
  4. Nec lingua valet dicere,
    Nee littera exprimere:
    Expertus potest credere,
    Quid sit Jesum diligere.
  5. Sis Jesu nostrum gaudium,
    Qui es futurus præmium:
    Sit nostra in te gloria,
    Per cuncta semper sæcula.
  1. Jesu, the very thought of Thee
    With sweetness fills my breast;
    But sweeter far Thy face to see,
    And in Thy presence rest.
  2. Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
    Nor can the memory find,
    A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
    O Saviour of mankind!
  3. O Hope of every contrite heart,
    O Joy of all the meek,
    To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
    How good to those who seek!
  4. But what to those who find? Ah! this
    Nor tongue nor pen can show:
    The love of Jesus, what it is
    None but His loved ones know.
  5. Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
    As Thou our prize wilt be;
    Jesu, be Thou our glory now,
    And through eternity.
Author: St. Bernard (1091-1153). Meter: Iambic dimeter. Translation By Father Caswall. Liturgical Use: This and the two following centos are used on the Feast of the Holy Name, which is celebrated on the Sunday between the Circumcision and the Epiphany, or failing such a Sunday, on January 2d.

The complete hymn as found in the Benedictine edition of the Opera of St. Bernard contains forty-eight stanzas. There are six translations of the complete hymn. Many centos from the hymn, including the three given here for Vespers, Matins, and Lauds, have been translated more frequently. There are two translations of these three centos in Mr. Shipley’s Annus Sanctus.

The Jesu dulcis memoria is a hymn of surpassing sweetness, and it has been universally accorded a place among the greatest hymns of the Church. According to Mr. James Mearns, the assistant editor of Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, this hymn is “The finest and most characteristic specimen of St. Bernard’s ‘subjective loveliness’ and its honied sweetness vindicates his title of ‘Doctor Melifmus.’” Father Caswall’s much admired translation preserves much of the “honied sweetness” of the original.

The ascription of this hymn to St. Bernard has been called in question. The authorship of the hymn is one of those vexed questions that will probably never be settled. Research reveals nothing definite on the subject. Father Blume, S.J., in the article on Hymnody in the Cath. Encycl. pronounces against its ascription to St. Bernard. On the other hand, Mr. James Mearns says: “This hymn has been generally (and there seems little reason to doubt correctly) ascribed to St. Bernard.” (Dict. of Hymnol.) There is an article on this hymn in the Index Vol. of the Cath. Encycl.

  1. “Jesus! how sweet is the very thought! giving true joys of heart; but surpassing honey and all sweetness is His sweet presence.” Supply est in lines 1 and 4. The Holy Name has Jesu in all the cases except the nom. and acc.
  2. “Nothing more sweet can be sung, nothing more pleasant can be heard, nothing more lovely can be thought of, than Jesus, the Son of God.”
  3. “O Jesus, the hope of penitents, how kind art Thou to those who pray! How good to those who seek Thee! But what to those who find!” This question is answered in the following stanza.
  4. “No tongue can tell, nor can written word express it: only one who knows from experience can say what it means to love Jesus.”
  5. “Mayest Thou, O Jesus, be our joy, as Thou wilt be our reward: in Thee be our glory forever.”