Monday, June 8, 2009

"Monte à l'autel, ô prêtre, et fais couler les grâces!"

The abbey of Orval

I wanted to post this poem, addressed, to the future Abbot (and restorer) of the Cistercian monastery of Orval, Charles (in religion, Dom Marie-Albert) van der Cruyssen (1874-1955), on the occasion of his ordination. During World War I, Dom Albert had been one of Belgium's most decorated combatants. In peacetime, he was intensely concerned with Catholic social and political action. In 1925, however, he decided to devote himself entirely to religion. He was a heroic and saintly man; many anecdotes, letters, and prayers testify to his charity, fortitude, and spiritual depth. 

Dom Albert van der Cruyssen was an intimate friend of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth; the King and his cabinet assisted him in restoring Orval during the late 1920's. The Abbot was very devoted to King Albert; they seem to have had deep spiritual discussions and Dom Albert later remembered his Sovereign as "a great Christian, who could say to himself every day: 'I do not fear death, I am ready.'" Dom Albert was also close to King Leopold III and his second wife, Princess Lilian. Henri Baels, Lilian's father, was one of the Abbot's best friends, and, in his capacity as Minister of Public Works, and, later, Governor of West Flanders, greatly aided in the restoration project. 

I found this poem very moving. (I will add a summary in English in the comments box).

Au P. Marie Albert 
de la Grande Trappe
à l'occasion de sa Première Messe
20 Décembre 1925

1918-1925
"La grande guerre où les meilleurs sont tombés."

Les braves, les meilleurs ne sont pas tous tombés,
Non: lorsque sur l'autel de la terre natale
Ces martyrs affirmaient leur ferveur filiale,
Tous ne furent pas consumés. 

La rafale de fer, le feu, l'eau, les hivers,
Les heroïsmes fous et la longue patience,
Tout ce qui a sauvé la Belgique et la France,
Beaucoup sont passés à travers.

Dieu sur ces vaillants preux avait un grand dessein:
Leurs anges les couvraient de boucliers terribles...
Et la mort, se cabrant, a percé d'autres cibles,
Faites pour un moins haut destin.

Il est pourtant digne d'envie
Celui qui meurt pour sa patrie!
Existe-t-il un sort plus beau?
Et quel est ce destin plus haut?

S'abattre sur la terre aimée
Qu'on arrache à la brute armée, 
Mourir en donnant tout son coeur,
Quel plus noble idéal, Seigneur?

Alors ces héros, ces hosties,
Dont vous n'avez pas pris les vies,
Pour quelle oeuvre les gardiez-vous?
Seigneur tout bon, montrez-le nous!

Sept ans sont passés depuis la grande guerre,
Et une fête illustrée au petit monastère 
Est préparée.
Un prêtre aujourd'hui va monter
Pour la première fois à l'autel. Gaudete,
Superexaltate! Louons avec les anges
Le Très-Haut qui descend diviniser nos fanges,
Que nos coeurs et nois voix bénissent le Seigneur!

La Belgique et la France en ce jour de bonheur
Sont ici toutes deux. Abbé, moines, moniales,
Famille, amis émus, parentés idéales,
Et parentés de chair, noblesse selon Dieu
Et noblesse de sang au Sauveur, en ce lieu,

Vont s'unir tous ensemble à la première messe
De ce bienheureux prêtre, oint d'huile d'allegresse,
Parmi nous désormais ouvrier de salut,
Père qui rompt le Pain aux fils du peuple élu,
Mandataire d'En-Haut, prince parmi les princes.

Ah! pourquoi le Seigneur voulait que tu revinsses,
Pourquoi tu n'es pas mort dans les eaux de l'Yser,
Ce grand jour nous explique, homme de Christ, Albert!

Tu n'es pas mort pour la cité charnelle,
Puisque Dieu pour bâtir Jérusalem nouvelle,
T'avait prédestiné. Les intérêtes humains 
Sauvés, ton oeuvre reste: il consacre tes mains. 
La terre est délivrée, il faut sauver les âmes:
Les ténèbres, le deuil et le péché réclament, 
Et la terre des coeurs a soif du sang de Dieu!

Pour que l'amour divin l'embrase de son feu,
En dissipe la nuit et en fonde les glaces, 
Monte à l'autel, ô prêtre, et fais couler les grâces!
Va! ton sort est rempli, ne rêve rien de plus:
Prêtre, monte à l'autel et donne-nous Jésus!

1 comment:

Matterhorn said...

(I'm sorry, this is a horribly rough translation, I am very bad at translating poetry)

...The brave, the best are not all fallen. No. When, on the altar of their native land, these martyrs affirmed their filial fervor, not all were consumed.

Many passed through the ravages of sword, fire, water, winter, heroism and long waiting, everything that saved Belgium and France.

God had a great design upon these valiant men, their angels protected them with terrible shields. And death pierced others, made for a less high destiny.

Yet he may well be envied, he who dies for his country! Is there a more beautiful fate? And what is this higher destiny?

To fight on one's beloved land, to rescue it from a brutal army, to die giving all one's heart, what nobler ideal is there, Lord?

So, these heroes, these victims, whose lives You spared, for what work are you keeping them? Show us, Lord, Who are all good!

Seven years have passed since the great war. A brilliant celebration is prepared at the little monastery. A priest today will approach the altar for the first time. Rejoice, rejoice greatly! With the angels let us praise the Highest, let our hearts and our voices praise the Lord!

Belgium and France are both here on this day of happiness. Abbot, monks, family, friends, all deeply moved, relatives in the spirit and in the flesh, God's nobility and the nobility of blood, in this place, wlll join together for the first Mass of this happy priest, anointed with the oil of gladness, for us, henceforth, a worker unto salvation, a Father who breaks Bread for the chosen people, an Emissary from the Highest, a prince among princes.

Ah! Why the Lord wished you to return, why you did not perish in the waters of the Yser, this great day explains, man of Christ, Albert!

You did not die for the carnal city, because God, to build the new Jerusalem, had predestined you. Human interests have been saved, but your work remains. He consecrates your hands. The earth is delivered, but souls must yet be saved. Shadows, mourning, and sin cry out, and the land of hearts thirsts for the blood of God!

So that divine love may kindle it with its fire, disperse the night and melt the ice, approach the altar, O priest, and let the graces flow! Go! Your destiny is fulfilled, think of nothing else. Priest, approach the altar and give us Jesus!