St. Thomas Aquinas' hymn Tantum Ergo, which is usually sung at Benediction, always seems better in Latin:

Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:

Mainly because in both the transliterated and the literal translation it doesn't make a ton of sense:

And let the old practice
Give way to the new rite;

Given this is written over 1000 years after the rite was established, what is this line in the hymn about?


"New" in this sense, is as in, "New covenant (or new testament, if you're going by a literal translation of the word covenant)." It is "new" as in it only 1200 (Aquinas wrote it), as opposed to the 4000(?) year old covenant of Abraham and the 2500 year old covenant of Moses.

It means that the believer is able to relate directly to the Godhead through the sacrifice of Christ, as opposed to the defective worship of the Old Testament (where the priest was mortal and sinful and had to offer sacrifice for his own sins in addition to the sins of the people and all of that other quasi-Pauline goodness from the book of Hebrews).


Question: is "the New Rite" necessarily a proper noun, or could this be a general reference to all old forms of repetitive forms of worship being replaced by "true worship of the heart," which in turn grow stale and must be replaced by new energetic forms of worship?

This the translation I found at the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Down in adoration falling, Lo! the sacred Host we hail, Lo! oe'r ancient forms departing Newer rites of grace prevail; Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail.

The translation "newer rites" overtaking older ones would tend to support this position.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.