I've decided to sing "Panis Angelicus", by Cesar Franck, for my High School Jury. I didn't know too much about it except for some loose translations, but I loved how it sounded. So I went to look it up, and decided that I would share its origin and history with you.
"Panis angelicus fit panis hominum;Dat panis coelicus figuris terminum.O res mirabilis! Manducat DominumPauper, pauper, servus et humilis."
What is it's purpose/history? Well, in fact it is used for the celebration of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is a song used to teach people Catholic Catechism! (just like "Ave Verum Corpus", for example.)
In St John's Gospel, Jesus says "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you". This was not easy to understand. Early medieval philosophers in the twelfth century began discussing how this might happen, and the term "transubstantiation" came about. They decided that the Eucharistic bread is not merely a symbol, but really becomes Christ's flesh. The "accidents" of the bread (its shape, color, texture and taste) remain the same, but its "substance" (its real nature) changes. This was accepted as an official church dogma (at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and reconfirmed at the Council of Trent in 1545-63).
To celebrate this doctrine, Pope Urban IV established the feast of Corpus Christi ("the Body of Christ"). He asked St Thomas Aquinas to compose some hymns in honor of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and St Thomas wrote five; one of which is Sacris Solemniis ("our solemn feast"). The words of "Panis angelicus" form the sixth stanza. They can be translated as follows:
"The bread of angels becomes the bread of man;This bread of heaven does away with symbols.What a marvel! The poor, the servant and the humbleMay feed on their Lord."
Lord Jesus Christ, pierce my soul with your love so that I may always long for you alone, who are the bread of angels and the fulfillment of the soul’s deepest desires. May my heart always hunger and feed upon you so that my soul may be filled with the sweetness of your presence. May my soul thirst for you, who are the source of life, wisdom, knowledge, light and all the riches of God our Father. May I always seek and find you, think upon you, speak to you and do all things for honor and glory of your holy name. Be always my only hope, my peace, my refuge and my help in whom my heart is rooted so that I may never be separated from you.