Vexilla Regis Prodeunt

Vexilla Regis, one of the greatest hymns of the Roman rite liturgy, was written by Venantius Fortunatus who lived between 530 and 609. He wrote it in honor of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and his Empress Sophia. Queen Radegunda, living in a convent she had built near Poitiers, was seeking out relics for the church there; to celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen requested Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church in 569. The hymn is traditionally sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The hymn is also sung on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar. The text of the Latin below is for the entire hymn, but verses in green are omitted when the hymn is used liturgically today [not supplied in English] The last two verses which form the concluding doxology are not by Fortunatus, but were penned by a later poet. Various web sites sell the sheet music, and or supply a music file which is plain song. Just type in "Vexilla Regis" between quotes and use whatever search engine you prefer. There are about 10 pages of listings, too many for me to sort through for our purpose here.

Abroad the regal banners fly,
now shines the Cross's mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.
VEXILLA Regis prodeunt;
fulget Crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

Confixa clavis viscera
tendens manus, vestigia,
redemptionis gratia
hic immolata est hostia.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
did purposely to wash us clear
from stain of sin, pour out a flood
of precious water mixed with blood.
Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,
manavit unda et sanguine.
That which the prophet-king of old
hath in mysterious verse foretold,
is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling the nations form a Tree.
Impleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
dicendo nationibus:
regnavit a ligno Deus.
O lovely and refulgent Tree,
adorned with purpled majesty;
culled from a worthy stock, to bear
those limbs which sanctified were.
Arbor decora et fulgida,
ornata Regis purpura,
electa digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere.
Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
the wealth that did the world restore;
the beam that did that Body weigh
which raised up Hell's expected prey.
Beata, cuius brachiis
pretium pependit saeculi:
statera facta corporis,
praedam tulitque tartari.

Fundis aroma cortice,
vincis sapore nectare,
iucunda fructu fertili
plaudis triumpho nobili.

Salve, ara, salve, victima,
de passionis gloria,
qua vita mortem pertulit
et morte vitam reddidit. 

Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now, in the mournful Passion time;
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner's crimes efface.
O Crux ave, spes unica,
hoc Passionis tempore!
piis adauge gratiam,
reisque dele crimina.
Blest Trinity, salvation's spring
may every soul Thy praises sing;
to those Thou grantest conquest by
the Holy Cross, rewards supply. Amen.
Te, fons salutis Trinitas,
collaudet omnis spiritus:
quos per Crucis mysterium
salvas, fove per saecula. Amen.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross:
On this triumphant day.
In Festo Exaltationis Sanctae Crucis:
in hac triumphi gloria!