Crux quem beata diligit

St. Andrew’s feast falls on November 30, which means it is either right before or right after the first Sunday of Advent. Dom Prosper Guéranger reminds us that Andrew is the apostle of the Cross; therefore, Dom Guéranger notes, the Christian year begins and ends in a sense with the Cross. Of course, Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Greece

Dom Guéranger also notes that Andrew has inspired devotion throughout the Church. He quotes two sequences, including one by Adam of St. Victor, one of the great medieval poets, and prefaces from the Ambrosian and Gallican rites. He also quotes a hymn he attributes to Pope St. Damasus. It may interest you to know that St. Damasus, who succeeded Pope Liberius in 366 in a hotly contested election that produced an antipope (the matter was not resolved until a synod in 378), employed a clever young priest, Jerome by name, as his secretary. St. Damasus also encouraged Jerome in his project of revising the Vetus Latina bible in light of the Greek texts then available.

However, we note that A.S. Walpole, in his Early Latin Hymns, informs us that the attribution to Pope St. Damasus first appeared in Baronius’s 1603 edition of Martyrologium Romanum. Moreover, Walpole asserts that, at the time of his writing, the attribution had determined, for the most part, to be spurious. The last author to support the attribution, “and he doubtfully,” made an interesting biographical point. Before his accession to the papacy, Damasus’s fortunes were linked to Pope Liberius’s. So, when Constantius II, ever taken in by all manner of Arians, sent Liberius into exile in Beroea, in Thrace, for the “crime” of defending Athanasius and rejecting Arianism, Damasus went too. When Andrew’s relics were translated from Patras, where he was martyred, to Constantinople, around 357, they may well have passed through Beroea. Or so the author asserts. And, as far as it goes, it would make sense—to us, anyway—for a priest with time on his hands to compose a hymn for the occasion. But the timing is all important for the theory, it seems. The Catholic Encyclopedia informs us that Liberius’s exile was not very long, only a couple of years, and that he was recalled to Rome sometime in 357. (It turned out, to Constantius’s dismay, that Archdeacon Felix, his preferred Arian pope, never quite captured the hearts of the Romans.) So, whether Damasus was in Beroea when Andrew’s relics passed through—if they were taken by road—depends on when, exactly, Liberius was recalled to Rome. An amusing detective story, to be sure, but one best left to the historians.

At any rate, the key to this interesting hymn is to know that Andreas includes among its meanings beauty.

Decus sacrati nominis,
Vitamque nomen exprimens,
Hoc te Decorum praedicat
Crucis beatae gloria.

Andrea, Christi Apostole,
Hoc ipso iam vocabulo
Signaris isto nomine,
Decorem idem mystice.

Quem Crux ad alta provehit,
Crux quem beata diligit,
Cui Crux amara praeparat
Lucis futurae gaudia.

In te Crucis mysterium
Cluit gemello stigmate,
Dum probra vincis per Crucem,
Crucisque pandis sanguinem.

Iam nos foveto languidos,
Curamque nostri suscipe,
Quo per Crucis victoriam
Coeli petamus patriam.


It is a shame that this fine hymn, which is apparently ancient, and which points up the identity of Andrew’s cross with the Cross, was left out of the Breviary of 1960 and the Liturgia Horarum, which so often restored ancient hymns.