Media vita in morte sumus
Media vita in morte sumus is the title and first line of a Latin antiphon, which translates as In the midst of life we are in death. It was erroneously attributed to Notker the Stammerer late in the Middle Ages, but was more probably written around 750 in France. Especially popular in the Baroque period, it was also used in Hartmann von Aue's Middle High German narrative poem Der arme Heinrich (V.93f.).
It has been translated into the vernacular several times, such as in 1524 by Martin Luther as Mytten wir ym leben synd (now in the Evangelischen Gesangbuch hymnbook as number 518, or 654 in the Gotteslob hymnbook) and by Thomas Cranmer (whose version became part of the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer).
The Bavarian 'Guglmänner' secret society used the phrase as its motto, whilst it is also echoed in Rilke's poem "Schlußstück" ("Der Tod ist groß [...] Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen/ wagt er zu weinen/ mitten in uns".).
"Media vita in morte sumus ; quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris? Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator, amarae morti ne tradas nos."
"In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death."
It was popularized by the Irish choir Anúna in a four-part harmony version, with the line of text "Juste irasceris" left out due to, according to Michael McGlynn, "The particular piece of parchment I was working from was missing those lines".
The phrase is referenced in The Smiths song 'Sweet And Tender Hooligan', which contains the lyric "in the midst of life, we are in debt."
- German text of Mytten wir ym leben synd on Wikisource
- "In Morte Sumus". Inspired by System Shock (1) game. Retrieved 2011.
- "In Morte Sumus". Signals & Noises album. Retrieved 2009.