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French seminarians impress with 700-year-old Latin hymn

French Seminarians sing "Media Vita"

Institute of the Good Shepherd | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 05/15/24

"Media Vita" was most likely first performed for a New Year's Eve Mass, but now it is more appropriate for the 4th Sunday of Lent.

We nearly missed this excellent hymn released during Lent 2024, but it’s never too late to bask in the glorious tones of over 700-year-old sacred music. Today we’re listening to “Media Vita,” a hymn from the 12th century.

Performed by the seminarians of St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in France, the piece is shared through the Institute of the Good Shepherd, whose YouTube channel carries many splendid performances from these young men in formation. They are particularly adept at vocal blending, a technique that – along with assistance from the acoustics of the seminary chapel – helps expand the sound to give the impression of more than just six singers.

The hymn is believed to have originated in the 1300s, first performed for a New Year’s Eve religious service, although it is not known exactly which year it was ringing in. By the 16th century, the York Breviary listed the “Media Vita” as a hymn appropriate for the 4th Sunday of Lent, which is the time when the seminarians released this recording, in 2024. 

The translation of the Latin lyrics reads: 

In the midst of life we are in death
of whom may we seek for succor,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins
art justly displeased?
Holy God,
Holy mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not unto bitter death.

The Institute of the Good Shepherd produces these fine recordings of sacred music as part of its mission “to bring to life, within the Church, the treasure of Catholic Tradition.” Since its foundation in 2006, the St. Vincent de Paul Seminary has produced 61 priests, with another 44 seminarians in formation, hailing from 15 countries. 

Listeners can support their good works by watching their videos on YouTube.

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