Pickler of the Stars of Night

The Communion hymn at Mass last Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Advent) was “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which is the English translation of “Conditor Alme Siderum.” Priests, monks, and nuns recite this hymn at Vespers during Advent. Reggie (Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D.) told us about “Conditor Alme Siderum” during our summer class in Rome back in 2007. As originally composed back in the early Middle Ages, the first word of the hymn was “conditor,” which should mean “creator, establisher,” from the verb “condo, condere” (“found, establish”). But because of the meter of the hymn, the stress falls on the second syllable (-di-), which would mean the word comes from the verb “condio, condire” (“pickle, preserve”). With that long-i, “conditor” would mean something like “condiment-maker.” Suffice it to say, don’t go to the early Middle Ages looking for stellar Latin (pun intended).

In the early 1600s, Pope Urban VIII — classicist, purist, and all-around snob that he was — changed the first word to “creator” to avoid the misplaced stress in “conditor.” The original wording was restored after Vatican II (I almost wrote World War II). Reggie recalled that when he first recited the restored hymn with its misplaced stress, he thought, “Pickler of the stars?” Anyway, thanks to Reggie, the hymn “Kindly Krautmaker of the Stars” is on my iPod.

Here’s an article by Fr. Zuhlsdorf about the hymn: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2006/12/advent-vespers-hymn-conditor-alme-siderum/
Here’s a YouTube video of the song sung in both Latin and English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc2vV-v802s

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