O gloriosa Domina

by Sister Fidelis

On September 8 we celebrate the Nativity of Mary, a feast that was established as early on as the 6th century. Once again we have a collection of beautiful hymns, antiphons, and Propers, all written very specifically for this day. The hymn for Lauds is especially lovely: O gloriosa Domina, taken from the second half of a larger hymn written by Fortunatus in the mid 500s. The four verses used at Lauds have many wonderful descriptions of Mary: glorious Lady; gentle one; door of the high king; shining gate of light….

The melody of the hymn has a very simple and gentle feeling. While it covers a range greater than an octave, it moves largely in step-wise motion or leaps of a third. The second and fourth quarters of each verse have a lovely cascading pattern of pedes and clivi rippling from re to sol and landing finally on the home-tone, la.

It’s amazing to think of this piece being sung annually on this date for close to 1500 years. Several sources state that it was the favorite hymn of St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), that the song was always on his lips, even on his deathbed (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Here below is a visual sample of the first two verses as well as a recording of Gloriæ Dei Cantores Men’s Schola singing the hymn (from the CD, The Chants of Mary).

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.

 

 

The Dormition of Mary

by Sister Fidelis

This week we celebrated the Dormition or Assumption of Mary. In preparation for this feast I pulled out a CD recorded by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Men’s Schola entitled, “The Chants of Mary.”  As I listened I was struck with the richness of the chant written in Mary’s honor, and thought again about how well-known these pieces are — pieces such as Salve Regina, Ave Maria, Regina Caeli, Ave Maris Stella. These are the beloved chants that many congregations can still sing by heart. Here, I think, is an example of our “human-ness” – the part of us that will still, even in our old age, respond to and be touched by the love and care of a true Mother, and the honor and respect we feel toward one who was willing to be simple and vulnerable, and to accept of all that God asked of her.

Taking a moment to look at Salve Regina a couple of thoughts come to mind. The simplicity and tenderness of the piece are evident in the simple structure, lack of melismas and “frills.” The line of the melody sweeps up and down peaking on important words and thoughts in a most straight-forward and child-like manner. The prayer that these words spell out has lasted through the centuries, still as pertinent as ever. Sometimes it is important just to take a moment to enjoy a little gem such as this. Listen here!

Salve Regina, Gregorian chant

Making Room

 

 

 

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By Faithful Finch

We received a beautiful Christmas card with a picture of Mary & Joseph, and the shepherds huddled in light  around Baby Jesus and the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” I put it up on our bathroom mirror to remind me as I dry my hair to “prepare Him room.”  But how do I do that? I feel so small in the pains and inadequacies of my puny life as I scurry from thing to thing to make space for Christ the King. As I wash my face at the end of the day, and look at the beauty and simplicity of that card, I once again feel convicted from the words, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”  I say, “Ok, I want to get there. I do, but all I have to offer is sin and the pain that comes with it. I’m sorry. Help me.”

A peace comes on me as I realize that not one person in this Nativity scene came to “prepare Him room” without pain, without sacrifice, but with so much blessing. That’s what the preparing is all about: making room every day of the year.

ADVENT III: Being Enlarged

Paul gives us an astonishing understanding of waiting in the New Testament book of Romans, as rendered by Eugene Peterson, “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” With such motivation, we can wait as we sense God is indeed with us, and at work within us, as he was with Mary as the Child within her grew.

Though the protracted waiting time is often the place of distress, even disillusionment, we are counseled in the book of James to “let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete.” Pain, grief, consternation, even despair, need not diminish us. They can augment us by ading to the breadth and depth of our experience, by enriching our spectrum of light and darkness, by keeping us from impulsively jumping into action before the time is ripe, before the “the fullness of time.” I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.

By Luci Shaw

Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)

The Community of Jesus

Saying Yes

By Melodious Monk

Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation, a feast that once again comes wholly unexpected at this time of year.  In reading the story again, I’m struck by two things.  Firstly, this visit from the angel on this March day, not Christmas, is the moment that God entered our world in the flesh; and secondly, on this day that Mary made her famous “fiat” — but she could have said no.  While I easily glide over both these events, hardly thinking more than, “of course that happened, the angel came and Mary agreed, and that’s wonderful and amazing and we love her for it!”

But I would do well to take a moment this week to ponder the amazing and multi-layered spiritual events that happened on this day.  In his book on saints, Father Alban Butler said this about the feast day: “The world, as heaven had decreed, was not to have a Savior till she had given her consent to the angel’s proposal; she gives it, and behold the power and efficacy of her submissive fiat!”

I see in this statement God giving Mary (and I believe all of us) a choice to say yes.  Not a one time offer, but daily, even many times a day we are given “angels’ proposal’s” or choices.  I tend to forget that in all situations, I have a choice for or against God.  On this feast, Mary’s example reminds us that the Savior will come readily after we say yes.

The Community of Jesus

 

When Heaven and Earth Converge

By Sr. Nun Other

At Christmas, we have the opportunity to dwell in the fruition of this beautiful imagery: Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalm 85:10)  We kneel at a manger to discover a mystery, a holy riddle, beyond human reasoning. He is Mary’s son, entrusted to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. He is God’s son, sung to by angels and visited by kings. He is the reconciliation of all that divides us, and, if we follow his footsteps, the one who makes us whole.

The Community of Jesus

The Forerunner

By Renaissance Girl

John the Baptist astounds me. His entire existence was about Jesus. And not just in the way we endeavor to “live for Jesus” — but literally — all about Him, from the moment John leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (perhaps eager to get started on his task), to the moment he submitted to the will of God and baptized Christ (despite his humble protest that it should be the other way around). He was beheaded at the whim of a girl and her mother, because his message to “prepare” threatened their comfortable existence. Everything he did — wild and confronting as it was — was meant to point to Jesus. And then John quietly stepped aside when He arrived.

I am astounded by this, because this is not how I live at all. But what if I could? What if, instead of seeking accolades myself, I was ALL about Jesus? My prayer as we draw closer to Christmas, is for the grace to become a little more like John the Baptist.

The Community of Jesus

An Advent Search For Quiet Moments

By Sr. Nun Other

Yesterday, I experienced quiet in a room with several people. Each was absorbed in their work, but not isolated from the other. It was an active quiet, and brought to mind my personal Advent reading for the day: Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation. There is no written proof, but traditionally, Mary is pictured alone, in quiet work, when Gabriel appears. The scene unfolds (at least in my mind) in discreet tranquility, in a quiet village in Nazareth, a quiet event, that will one day alter the course of humankind.

The Community of Jesus

 
I am embarrassed to say it hit me yesterday that Christmas is what it’s all about. Of course, I’ve known it to some extent but yesterday, for some reason, out of the clear blue, it was an “aha! moment.”  This day, with its month-long advertising lead up, its marketplace pressures of “what are you getting for the ones you love?” Its frantic “get-it-while-it-lasts” message — is really about a quiet birth. And, amazingly, this quiet birth is really about the saving of the world! God wrapped and sent his most precious gift. His Son — our salvation, wrapped in our flesh and in the arms of a young woman who said Yes.
 
And the shocking thing — it’s not what anybody asked for or wanted! No warrior on a steed to conquer the empire. No king in a chariot to overthrow the government. A baby, who would grow and suffer and die — and redeem the human race.
 
So perhaps Christmas isn’t getting what we want – it’s receiving what we need.
 
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