The Liturgy of the Hours translated for all the ages
From the Latin Angularis fundamentum (7th century), Englishman J.M. Neale (“Prince of translators”) wrote the English translation of the hymn which he titled “Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation”. The original’s author is unknown, all that is clear is that the hymn is an original in the Roman Breviary or the ancient liturgy of the hours performed at the synagogues. The Latin original, poetic and mystical, is specifically designed for God’s praise. In the Anglican church, it is considered regal music, fit for the monarchy. It’s always performed at royal weddings, to which some have commented that the blessing of the hymn can at times fail to ensure a happy-ever-after. Other than that, it’s also performed during other cathedral occasions in the UK.
Back to the Neale, he was a man for others. Apart from scholarly pursuits, he served at the retirement home for poor men for a long time, where he expanded the service of the home to include indigent women and orphans. He founded the order of St. Margaret nuns, which turned out to be one of the best nurse training establishments, it was also an orphanage and reformation for indigent women. His advocacy to help many people endeared Neale to them but infuriated other sectors of society. He was also a great writer and wrote volumes of amazing original hymns and prose. This and being a gifted Greek and Latin translator was what made him well-known to a vast population. He was faithful to the adaptation of the exact original rhyme and measure. Translation was difficult mental olympics, but Neale has done metrical English translations in one sitting as witnessed by some of his contemporaries. For “Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation”, Neale composed an unaccompanied plainsong melody.
Today’s hymnals carry a different melody which is a composition of English composer Henry Purcell. This is the one performed for the monarchy, since it is a stately melody, compared to the plainsong. In contrast, the Latin original was meant to be an element for the people, meant to draw their spirit and inform their Christian faith.