Ave maris stella

by Sister Fidelis


Tuesday we celebrate the feast of the Dormition or Assumption of Mary. This is a feast rich with beautiful Marian antiphons, hymns, and propers – many well-known pieces which I always enjoy chanting.

One of my favorites is the hymn for Lauds, Ave maris stella, Hail star of the ocean. This 8th century, mode I hymn is essentially a simple piece – mainly syllabic composition with just a couple small bursts of melismatic ornamentation. It has a lilting quality and to my ear sounds like the song of a girl, young, pure, not without difficulties but still full of hope and joy.   

The poem has a lovely text:
Hail, star of the ocean, kind mother of God,
And also ever-virgin, happy gate of heaven.
Receiving that “Hail” from the mouth of Gabriel,
Establish us in peace, reversing the name of Eve.

Loosen the chains of things; offer light to the blind;
Drive away our evils; plead for all good.
Show yourself to be a mother; may he take up the prayer sent through you,
He who, born for us, allowed himself to be yours.

One and only Virgin, among all others meek,
Released from our faults, make us gentle and chaste.
Grant a pure life; prepare a safe road,
That, seeing Jesus, we may forever rejoice together.

Praise be to God the Father, glory to Christ the most high,
Honor to the Holy Spirit, alike to all three. Amen.



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