The Holy Eucharist and the Hymn ‘T’Adoriam, Ostia Divina’

altThis publication by the Foundation for Theological Studies, Malta, includes two studies written with great passion and expertise. Both are focused on the Holy Eucharist; one is by Revd Dr Hector Scerri, Director of the Theological Studies Foundation and Head of the Department of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Malta, the other is by Dr Joe Zammit Ciantar (a retired Senior Lecturer with the University of Malta).

Scerri discusses the Eucharist as the witness-evoking viaticum: the Christian food for this earthly journey during which the faithful are called to act responsibly and show a prophetic solicitude to others. Participation in this Paschal sacrament of Christ’s love nourishes and strengthens Christians along the pilgrimage of this life, and instils within them the longing for eternal life.

The second study narrates the enormously interesting vicissitudes of the hymn and assesses its exegesis. This is the only extensive and comprehensive study ever of Dun Karm’s spiritually impressive hymn. Zammit Ciantar has been researching on the hymn for these last 22 years. This contribution is profusely illustrated and includes an appendix with reproductions of photos and printed material related to both of the International Eucharistic Congress and the Eucharistic hymn. Some marvellous visual material is appearing for the first time and should arouse the interest of all avid Melitensia collectors.

Dun Karm Psaila – Malta’s national poet – wrote the lyrics for the Eucharistic hymn, ‘Inno Eucaristico’ (later more popularly known as and entitled ‘T’Adoriam, Ostia Divina’) for the celebrations connected with the XXIVth International Eucharistic Congress held in Malta in April 1913. The hymn was set to music by Maestro Giuseppe Caruana.

The hymn’s melody and lyrics must have left such a deep impression on the participants and were taken home by many of the foreign dignitaries present for the Congress. The lyrics were eventually adopted, translated, and sung in many countries outside Malta. It seems that it was these words – so highly expressive of Divine Love in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist – that have made the hymn so popular and, a hundred years later, are still sung in churches and during Religious celebrations in Europe, Australia, the United States of America, Canada, and Brasil.

In his foreword to these studies, Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo (Malta), invites the readers to let themselves be accompanied by the competent authors who reflect upon the Eucharist, the fountain and summit of Christian life … ‘To those who are spiritual shepherds or involved in the liturgical animation of their communities, these pages must provoke and constitute a challenge to ask whether our liturgies authentically-lived participative celebrations, and an occasion to reflect on the quality and contents that distinguish a sacred hymn from any other musical composition.’

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HECTOR SCERRIHECTOR SCERRI, a priest of the Archdiocese of Malta, graduated in theology at the University of Malta and the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He is Head of the Department of Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology, University of Malta, Director of the Foundation for Theological Studies and President of the Theological Commission and the Ecumenical Commission, Malta. He is the author of a large number of scholarly articles and books, and is a member of various international theological societies.
JOE ZAMMIT CIANTAR, a graduate of the University of Malta, is a retired Senior Lecturer in the Department of Maltese, University of Malta Junior College. A member of the International Committee of Onomastic Sciences of Belgium, the International Society of Dialectologists and Geolinguists, and of the editorial board of Atlas Linguarum Europae of Firenze. He authored several scholarly papers published in local and foreign journals, and a number of books, including The Placenames of the Coast of Gozo (Malta) (Malta, 2000) and Il-Priedki bil-Malti ta’ Ignazio Saverio Mifsud (Malta, 2008).JOE ZAMMIT CIANTAR