Denver Newsroom, Apr 13, 2022 / 12:39 pm (CNA).
Did you know that it is possible to sing a special song of adoration on Holy Thursday and have your soul purified?
It’s true, and the song is “Tantum Ergo.”
First, some background. A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary, and all the saints to remove all the temporal punishment due to sin.
What does this mean?
“An indulgence does not confer grace. An indulgence is not a remission of the guilt due to sin. The guilt due to sin is ordinarily taken away by the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance (confession), in which we receive forgiveness for sins through Jesus Christ,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) explains in this helpful Q&A.
“Although guilt is taken away, and with it the eternal penalty that is due to sin, namely, damnation, the eternal loss of the presence of God, there remain consequences for sins that those who have committed them must bear. There is what is traditionally called the temporal punishment for sin.”
What is temporal punishment? As the USCCB explains, “Every sinful act creates a disorder within the soul of the human person; it distorts our desires and affections, leaving us with ‘an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.'”
For this reason, the USCCB continues, “Those who have received forgiveness for their sins still have an obligation to undergo a difficult and painful process (the temporal penalty for sin) to be purified of the consequences of their sins and to restore the disrupted relationships.”
Through a plenary indulgence, we can be spared this purification process. As the USCCB explains it, “By God’s grace, participation in a prayer or action that has an indulgence attached to it brings about the necessary restoration and reparation without the suffering that would normally accompany it.”
On Holy Thursday, you can receive this special gift, resulting in the purification of your soul, by singing the “Tantum Ergo.” If you aren’t familiar with this beautiful hymn, watch this short video.
The “Tantum Ergo” is the last two verses of “Pange lingua,” a Latin hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas. “Tantum Ergo” is short for the first words of the hymn’s second-to-last verse, “Tantum ergo Sacramentum,” which in Latin simply means, “Therefore, so greatly the Sacrament.”
These magnificent verses are an expression of adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. For this reason, it is usually sung before the benediction when the priest blesses those gathered with the monstrance.
After Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the faithful are invited to participate in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night. This represents the disciples who were invited to stay up throughout the night with the Lord during his agony in the garden before his betrayal by Judas. Singing the “Tantum Ergo” at this time is how you obtain the plenary indulgence.
As always the case with plenary indulgences, certain conditions must be satisfied to receive the grace. According to the USCCB, these conditions are: sacramental confession; reception of Holy Communion; prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, and complete detachment from all sin, even venial sin.
The first three conditions (confession, Communion, and prayers for the pope’s intentions) can be fulfilled a few days before or after performing the works to gain the indulgence (in this case, singing the “Tantum Ergo” during adoration), but it is appropriate that Communion and the prayer take place on the same day that the work is completed.
Here are words to the “Tantum Ergo”:
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Laus et iubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.
And here’s the English version:
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
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