When I posted a clip of St.Thomas Aquinas’ well-known hymn Pange Lingua yesterday [here], I remarked on his ability to express theological truths in poetic form. Today we have another example in the hymn Panis Angelicus, which is familiar even to secular audiences in 19th century composer Cesar Franck’s lovely musical setting. In the clip below Franck's version is beautifully sung by a young Franciscan known as Friar Alessandro, upon whom God has apparently bestowed, as he did on his spiritual father St. Francis, the gift of song.
St. Thomas wrote Panis Angelicus as part of an entire liturgical cycle (both Mass and Divine Office) for the feast of Corpus Christi (literally, “Body of Christ”, today formally known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ). Pange Lingua was part of this same cycle. As is appropriate for a celebration of the Lord’s gift of His own Body, Panis Angelicus (literally, “Bread of Angels”) is a meditation on the Incarnation and the Eucharist. It is also appropriate for the Feast of the Nativity, in which we celebrate the moment when the Word became Flesh, and for that reason we hear it most often during the Christmas Season.