Someone asked me for a translation of a Latin song we often sing called Tantum Ergo. We usually sing it for benediction and other Eucharistic occasions. There is an English translation of sorts that is out there which begins: “Humbly let us voice our homage for so great a sacrament…” It’s close but because it is bound by poetic meter it strays a bit. Perhaps a more literal translation will help you in know what the Latin words mean as you sing them. I would like to offer a fairly literal translation here below:
Tantum ergo Sacramentum Therefore so great a Sacrament
Veneremur cernui: Let us venerate with bowed heads
Et antiquum documentum And as the ancient dispensation
Novo cedat ritui: gives way to the newer rites:
Praestet fides supplementum Let Faith supply a help
Sensuum defectui. to the defect of the senses.
Genitori, Genitoque To the One Who Begets and the One who is begotten
Laus et jubilatio, Be praise and jubilation,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque Salvation, honor, strength also
Sit et benedictio: And may there be blessing:
Procedenti ab utroque (and) to the One proceeding from them both
Compar sit laudatio. may there be equal praise.
Just in case you’re wondering, the “One who Begets” is God the Father, the “One who is Begotten” is God the Son (Jesus), and the “One proceeding from them both” is God the Holy Spirit.
Alright so now that you hopefully have a better idea what those words mean, enjoy this video which features Mozart’s version of Tantum Ergo (k. 197).