Known and beloved as the “Golden Sequence,” the Veni Sancte Spiritus is a beautiful, powerful prayer to the Holy Spirit that dates back to the thirteenth century. It is attributed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton.
In 1570, this “sequence” (still prayed and chanted after the first reading Epistle and the Alleluia and before the reading of the Gospel) was codified into the liturgical calendar for Masses said from Pentecost through the following Saturday. The 1634 revision to the Missal under Urban VIII left it unchanged, and it is still used in the Missals for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, today. In other words, for almost 450 years, this prayer has been anchored in the solemn commemoration of Pentecost and the transition from Eastertide to Ordinary Time.
The renowned medieval theologian Clichtoveus, in his work “Elucidatorium,” says about the Veni Creator that it is deserving of “above all praise because of its wondrous sweetness, clarity of style, pleasant brevity combined with wealth of thought (so that every line is a sentence), and finally the constructive grace and elegance displayed in the skillful and apt juxtaposition of contrasting thoughts“ (New Advent).
Enter into this prayer on a sensory level. Find a quiet place. Read it. Pray it. Listen to the chant videos below. Try following the chant notation video and attempting your own chanted prayer. In childlike trust, invite Him into your heart and soul: His radiance, His gifts, His consolation, His refreshment, His light, His healing, His quenching waters, His cleansing, His life, His joys. May the Holy Spirit – blessed Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity – respond to the cries of your heart!
Veni Sancte Spiritus in Gregorian Chant
And here it is in square notes so you can learn to sing it (and how to read square note chant! – I recommend it!). Even if you have zero experience or comfort in Latin, but TRY – I beg you – try reading out loud the Latin version above – it’s entirely phonetic (the words sound like they appear to your eye), and it trills off the tongue with exquisite beauty. You can start to understand why Latin is so conducive to chant. It’s naturally poetic. (Mind you, the English version above is not a literal translation, but is, itself, poeticized.)