Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saint Mary the Virgin

Mary the Mother of Jesus is commemorated today in the Episcopal calendar of saints; today is also marked in the Roman Catholic calendar as the Assumption of Mary.

Most Protestant denominations have a rather ambivalent relationship with Mary; she's allowed to surface in Advent and Christmas, then Good Friday, but is not often mentioned any other time of year. She is much more prominent in the
Roman Catholic church, where she is seen as an intercessor between God or Jesus and the people on earth. Many Eastern churches, as well as the Anglicans, call her the Theotokos, the Godbearer, or Mother of God.

So it's to Catholic sources that we usually have to turn to find general hymns about Mary without bringing in Christmas or Advent, or standing at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. This one will be sung in a great many Catholic parishes this weekend.

Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above,
O Maria!
Hail, Mother of mercy and of love,
O Maria!
Triumph, all ye cherubim;
Sing with us, ye seraphim!
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn:
Salve, salve, salve Regina!

The source of joy to us below,
O Maria!
The spring through which all graces flow,
O Maria!
Angels, all your praises bring,
earth and heaven, with us sing,
All creation echoing:
Salve, salve, salve Regina!

Latin, 11th cent.
st. 1 tr. Roman Hymnal, 1884
st. 2 unknown
Choralmelodien zum Heiligen Gesänge, 1808

This is known as a macaronic text, meaning that it incorporates two languages (English/Latin in this case); some Christmas carols do this too. Also, this hymn was introduced to many outside the Catholic faith when it was sung (in an even more energetic arrangement) in the Whoopi Goldberg film Sister Act (1992).

P.S. The illustration above is from the fifteenth-century Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, in the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Belgium.

One Year Ago: Saint Mary the Virgin

No comments: