This hymn is attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604) and there is good reason to think he may have written it. The ancient preface to St. Columban's Altus prosator describes the arrival of St. Gregory's messengers from Rome bearing gifts and a set of hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours. In turn, St. Columban sent a set of hymns he had composed to St. Gregory. There has been considerable debate of late as to whether St. Gregory really did write the hymn or if he simply sent what was current in Rome at the time. Considerable evidence can be put forth for both positions.
This traditional winter-time Sunday Matins hymn is used in the Liturgia Horarum for the Sunday Office of the Readings of the first and third weeks of the Psalter during Ordinary Time. The hymn below is the complete hymn, whereas in the Liturgia Horarum only the first four verses are used along with a different concluding verse. In the Roman Breviary the hymn has been heavily modified and appears as Primo die, quo Trinitas.
| PRIMO dierum omnium,
quo mundus exstat conditus
vel quo resurgens conditor
nos, morte victa, liberat.
| HAIL day! whereon the One in Three
first formed the earth by sure decree,
the day its Maker rose again,
and vanquished death, and burst our chain.
| Pulsis procul torporibus,
surgamus omnes ocius,
et nocte quaeramus pium,
sicut Prophetam novimus.
| Away with sleep and slothful ease!
We raise our hearts and bend our knees,
and early seek the Lord of all,
obedient to the Prophet's call:
| Nostras preces ut audiat
suamque dexteram porrigat,
et hic piatos sordibus 1
reddat polorum sedibus,
| That He may hearken to our prayer,
stretch forth His strong right arm to spare,
and every past offense forgiven,
restore us to our homes in heaven.
| Ut quique sacratissimo
huius diei tempore
horis quietis psallimus,
donis beatis muneret.
| Assembled here this holy day,
this holiest hour we raise the lay;
and O that He to whom we sing,
may now reward our offering!
| Iam nunc, Paterna claritas,
te postulamus affatim:
absit libido sordidans,
omnisque actus noxius.
| O Father of unclouded light,
keep us this day as in Thy sight,
in word and deed that we may be
from every touch of evil free.
| Ne foeda sit, vel lubrica
compago nostri corporis,
per quam averni ignibus
ipsi crememur acrius.
| That this our body's mortal frame
may know no sins, and fear no shame,
nor fire hereafter be the end
of passions which our bosoms rend.
| Ob hoc, Redemptor, quaesumus,
ut probra nostra diluas:
vitae perennis commoda
nobis benignus conferas.
| Redeemer of the world, we pray
that Thou wouldst wash our sins away,
and give us, of Thy boundless grace,
the blessings of the heavenly place.
| Quo carnis actu exsules
effecti ipsi caelibes,
ut praestolamur cernui,
melos canamus gloriae.
| That we, thence exiled by our sin,
hereafter may be welcomed in:
that blessed time awaiting now,
with hymns of glory here we bow.
| Praesta, Pater, piissime,
Patrique compar Unice,
cum Spiritu Paraclito
regnans per omne saeculum.
| Most holy Father, hear our cry,
through Jesus Christ our Lord most High
who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee
doth live and reign eternally.
|From the Liturgy of the Hours & Canterbury Hymnal. Translation by J. M Neale (1818-1866).|
Changes made by Pope Urban VIII in 1632 to the Roman Breviary:
(Primo die, quo Trinitas): 1: Primo die, quo Trinitas/ beata mundum condidit,/ vel quo resurgens Conditor/ nos, morte victa, liberat:
2: Pulsis procul torporibus,/ surgamus omnes ocius,/ et nocte quaeramus Deum,/ propheta sicut praecipit:
3: Nostras preces ut audiat,/ suamque dexteram porrigat,/ et expiatos sordibus/ reddat polorum sedibus:
5: Iam nunc, Paterna claritas, te postulamus affatim: absint faces libidinis, et omnis actus noxius.
6: Ne foeda sit, vel lubrica/ compago nostri corporis, ob cuius ignes ignibus avernus urat acrius.
7: Mundi Redemptor, quaesumus,/ Tu probra nostra diluas:/ nobisque largus commoda/ vitae perennis conferas.
1 Some MS have: ut expiatos sordibus.