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One Equal Music 8

Written by Philippa White, posted on Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit

For this Pentecost, I have chosen a contemporary setting of a medieval text. The thirteenth-century liturgical text Veni, sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) is attributed to Stephen Langton (c. 1150-1228), the Lincolnshire-born Archbishop of Canterbury; a text composed in England but used across Catholic Europe. 

Here, it is set by Howard Goodall (b. 1958), a composer from Oxfordshire and with strong links to Christ Church.

Soundcloud icon Veni Sancte Spiritus 

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum, veni, lumen cordium.

Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies, in aestu temperies, in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima, reple cordis intima tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium.

Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium.

Alleluia, Amen.

 

Holy Spirit, Lord of light, from Thy clear celestial height thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, Thou Father of the poor, come with treasures which endure, come, Thou Light of all that live.

Thou, of all consolers best, thou, the soul’s delightsome Guest, dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet, pleasant coolness in the heat, solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, Light divine, visit Thou these hearts of Thine, and our inmost being fill.

If Thou take Thy grace away, nothing pure in man will stay; all his good is turned to ill.

Give them comfort when they die, give them life with Thee on high; give them joys that never end.

Alleluia, Amen.

(translation by Edward Caswall [1817-1878])


The Holy Spirit is often a difficult person, or concept, to think about. This text uses prayer and praise to explore different aspects of who the Holy Spirit is, in the context of who God is, and who we are in relation to God. In it, we pray to the Holy Spirit under a number of names, praying that the Spirit would come as ‘giver of gifts, light of hearts’, ‘best of comforters, soul’s sweetest guest, sweet refreshment’ and bring a crescendo of blessings: light, purity, goodness, comfort, life and everlasting joys.

The text is sometimes called the Golden Sequence, ‘golden’ as a nod to its richness of language and thought. Goodall’s music reflects that title in richness and depth, and particularly in the sparkling purity and brightness of its treble melodies.

It concludes with a long, lingering Veni Sancte Spiritus; Alleluia, Amen – Come, Holy Spirit; Alleluia, Amen. In returning to the beginning of the text and to the prayer that has lain behind all that has been prayed, the music also returns to the melody with which the piece began, drawing together all the prayers and praises of the text and its music into one final expression of trust and praise.