Wherever you fall on the spectrum of Latin — a scholar, a teacher or student of classical education, or a novice — you will find Liber Hymnorum: The Latin Hymns of the Lutheran Church to be an absolute treasure. Liber Hymnorum is two hymnals in one, the first half being English, the second Latin, exactly mirroring the first half in contents and numbering.
As author, editor, and translator Matthew Carver explains: “This book is a collection of hymns taken exclusively from Lutheran hymnals and chant-books of the Reformation and post-Reformation era. Specifically, it contains the old medieval Latin hymns which Lutheran churches in various parts of Germany still sang at morning and evening prayer (especially in urban areas with Latin schools) with the original Gregorian chant melodies that they used, here with Gregorian melodies with the Latin, and modern notation with the English. It also includes some other ancient hymns sung at the beginning of the Divine Service as well as some Latin carols. Basically, anything I found in old Lutheran hymnals that was (a) in Latin, (b) set to music, and (c) designated to be sung in church, I included.
“Each half is arranged in the form of a church hymnal such as might be used for morning and evening prayers, with the hymns keyed to different times of day (evening, night, early morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon), the days of the week, the seasons of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, etc.), and Christian festivals of apostles and saints, some more generalized, some for specific saints. After this come the ancient Divine Service hymns for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. These are further augmented by Benedicamus hymns (for the end of the prayer services) and the medieval Latin carols, many of which are familiar to us.”
Over the course of the next week, we will be posting excerpts from an interview with Mr. Carver, addressing such questions as to the translation and settings, how and by whom the hymnal can be used, and why Liber Hymnorum is so unique. To stay informed, like us on Facebook or sign up for (occasional) email updates on the right sidebar.
“Matthew Carver has once again done an enormous service for the Church by providing for us his Latin-English Hymnal. This work gathers into one the many Latin hymns that shaped our spiritual forebears as they sought to read and understand and proclaim the Sacred Scriptures in the light of the Church’s historic Christological hermeneutic. Now for English speakers, these classic hymns from the early and medieval church that survived well past the Reformation and helped shape the piety of our great dogmaticians and vernacular hymnwriters can be enjoyed in our own tongue and can help shape our own piety.” -Pr. William Weedon, Chaplain, LCMS Director of Worship
“It is refreshing to find, in one volume, respectable translations (many by Neale already familiar) of Latin hymns I have been chanting all my long life. One applauds this labor of love.” -Fr. Pat Reardon, Touchstone Magazine
Matthew Carver was born in Long Beach, California, and attended California State University, Long Beach, earning bachelor’s degrees in Classical Civilization and German Studies. He also studied studio arts, receiving his MFA in painting and drawing from San Francisco Art Institute in 2005. His published works include The Great Works of God, Walther’s Hymnal, The Christian Year of Grace (2014) (trans.), and the Saints Catherine & Maurice Daily Lectionary.