Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Monday, September 29, 2008

Holy Michael the Archangel

Holy Michael the Archangel statue in Kiev, courtesy of The Roving Medievalist blog

(The following is excerpted from Dom Prosper Guéranger's entry in The Liturgical Year for May 8, The Apparition of Saint Michael, in Volume VIII of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"The very name of Michael urges us to honour this glorious spirit; it is a cry of enthusiasm and fidelity, for it signifies: 'Who is like unto God?' Satan trembles at hearing this name, for it reminds him of the noble protest wherewith the bright Archangel answered the call of the rebel angels. Michael proved his strength and prowess when he fought the great battle in heaven. On that account, he was made the guardian and protector of God's people; first of the Jews, and afterwards of the Christan Church, for the Synagogue has forfeited all her honours. Michael now watches over Jesus' Spouse, our mother; he supports her in her trials and she wins no triumph in which he has not had some part."

"But we are not to supposed that the holy Archangel is so engaged in attending to the general interests of Christ's kingdom on earth that he cannot listen to the prayers of each individual member of the Church. God has given him a compassionate love for men; and there is not a single soul that escapes his notice. He wields the sword in defence of the Spouse of Christ; he wars with the dragon, who is ever lying in wait for the Woman and her child [Apoc. xii 13]; but, at the same time, he is attentive to each one of us; for after having confessed our sins to Almighty God, and to the Blessed Mary ever a Virgin, we acknowledge them likewise to Blessed Michael the Archangel and beseech him to pray for us to the Lord our God [the Confiteor]."

"He assists at every death-bed, for his special office is to receive the souls of the elect on their quitting the flesh. With loving solicitude and princely bearing, he presents them to the Light Eternal and introduces them into the House of God's glory. It is Holy Church herself that tells us, in the words of her Liturgy, of these prerogatives of the great Archangel. She teaches us that he has been set over Paradise, and that God has given him the charge of leading to heaven the souls of them that are to be received there. On the last day, when our Risen Jesus is to appear on the clouds of heaven to judge mankind, all of whom will then have resumed their bodies in the general resurrection, Michael with the rest of the angels will have to fulfil a ministry of awful import -- that of separating the good from the bad. Our Catholic forefathers, in the Middle Ages, were fond of representing the holy Archangel engaged in this dread function, standing at the foot of Jesus' judgement-seat, and holding a scale, in which he is weighing the souls of men and their works...."

"Guardian angel of Holy Church! now is the time for thee to exert all the might of thine arm. Satan is furious in his efforts against the noble Spouse of thy Master; brandish thy bright sword, and give battle to this implacable enemy. The kingdom of Christ is shaken to its very foundations. Is it that the reign of the Man of Sin is about to be proclaimed on the earth? Are we near that last day when, this guilty world is to be destroyed by fire, and thou art to exercise, in the name of the Sovereign Judge, the terrible office of separating the goats from the sheep? If this earth is still to exist; if the mission of the Church is not yet completed; is it not time for thee, O Michael! to show the dragon of hell that he may not, with impunity, insult on this earth the God who created it, who redeemed it, and whose name is King of kings and Lord of lords? The forces of error and crime and unceasingly dragging the world to the brink of the precipice; save it, O glorious Archangel, by confounding the dark plots which are laid for its destruction!"

Hymn From The Traditional Lauds of the Feasts of St. Michael
[Quoted in the above entry from Dom Guéranger]

"O Christ! the glory of the angels, the Creator and Redeemer of mankind! grant that we may ascend to the happy thrones of the heavenly citizens."

"May Michael, the angel of peace, come from heaven into this our temple, bring us sweet peace, and drive dismal war back again to hell."

"May Gabriel, the angel of strength, come and rout our ancient foe; may he often visit the heaven-loved temples which the triumphant Jesus has places throughout the world."

"May Raphael, our heavenly physician, descend and visit us, that he may heal all that are infirm and direct our faltering steps in the path of life."

"May the Virgin Queen of peace, the Mother of light; may the holy choir of angels; may the bright court of heaven ever assist and protect us."

"May the Godhead ever blessed of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whose glory is proclaimed through the whole world, grant us this prayer. Amen."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Beauty of the Solemn High Mass, as Portrayed by Hollywood

Just under 4 years ago, I started this blog after meeting several devout Christendom College students after a Sunday Traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary, Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington, DC. The previous month, I had traveled to England and visited several Catholic sites, including the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and had seen Catholic art in the National Gallery in London. I was inspired, by the events of that time and by those students, to blog about Catholic subjects, especially Catholic art, feast days, and devotions; and also, write about Traditional Latin Masses in the Washington, DC metro area which I had attended and taken pictures.

With this post, I continue in this vein, but instead of focusing on the beauty of still visual arts, the feature is a video clip of the opening scene of a movie titled True Confessions, which was released in 1981. This scene is set in the 1940s, and features a Solemn High Nuptial Mass.

As far as I can tell, it is a faithful reproduction of the Solemn liturgy. It does cut frequently to different parts of the Mass, and the offering priest, portrayed by actor Robert De Niro, for one reason or another, doesn't chant the Ite Missa Est at the end. But that is a very small matter.

Witness the beauty of this production:

A priest friend of mine, who is a regular celebrant of the Traditional Latin Mass, told me about this scene before a pro-life rally. He sent me the following description before giving me the link to the video:

Many years ago, back in college (1981), I took a girl-friend to see a movie called 'True Confessions.'

It was about an ambitious priest who discovered what it really meant to be a priest.

Anyway, the opening scene was of a [S]olemn [H]igh [N]uptial [M]ass. I was just a college kid and had never seen what the old [M]ass looked like. I remember being amazed at the beauty of the Mass as displayed in the movie and wondered how and why the Church had ever discarded something so beautiful. I remember being angry that I had been deprived of my birthright. Somehow, also, that night the seeds of my own vocation were nurtured and I longed to see the day when this beautiful form of the [M]ass would one day shine forth again. Here is an excerpt from that movie, the [S]olemn [H]igh [N]uptial [M]ass scene I saw. Enjoy this beautiful clip:
I can definitely identify with this kind parish priest's train of thought: "I had been deprived of my birthright." I had such a sentiment after I discovered the Traditional Mass during the summer of 2003. But praise be to the most high God in Heaven that he has given the gift of the Traditional Latin Mass, the highest prayer we can offer to Him, back to us, through His Divine Providence and kindness. May more and more people come to see the true beauty of this liturgy.

Deo gratias!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Feast of Our Lady of Ransom

(The feast of Our Lady of Ransom on the traditional sanctoral calendar, which is commemorated on 24 September, is the date on which the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham is also celebrated, particularly in the English-speaking world. According to an article by Raven Wenner, a parishioner of Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican-Use Catholic parish in Houston, Texas (and posted on the Pro Ecclesia, Pro Familia, Pro Civitate blog): "[The feast of] Our Lady of Walsingham was formerly celebrated on March 25th, "Lady Day" (Feast of the Annunciation), but for ecumenical considerations was moved to September 24th. (September 24 in England had been the feast of Our Lady of Ransom, who was entreated for the re-conversion of England, 'Our Lady's Dowry.')." The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, founded in 1887, helped restore the Slipper Chapel shrine in Walsingham.

The following is excerpted from Dom Prosper Guéranger's entry in The Liturgical Year for Our Lady of Ransom, in Volume XIV of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"Finding their power crushed in Spain, and in the east checked by the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, the Saracens [Mohammadans], in the twelfth century, became wholesale pirates, and scoured the seas to obtain slaves for the African markets. We shudder to think of the numberless victims, of every age, sex, and condition, suddenly carried off from the coasts of Christian lands, or captured on the high seas, and condemned to the disgrace of the harem or the miseries of the bagnio. Here, nevertheless, in many an obscure prison, were enacted scenes of heroism worthy to compare with those witnessed in the early persecutions; here was a new field for Christian charity; new horizons opened out for heroic self-devotion. Is not the spiritual good thence arising a sufficient reason for the permission of temporal aids? Without this permission, heaven would have for ever lacked a portion of its beauty."

"When, in 1696, [Pope] Innocent XII extended this feast to the whole Church, he afforded the world an opportunity of expressing its gratitude by a testimony as universal as the benefit received."

"Differing from the Order of the [H]oly Trinity [Trinitarians], which had been already twenty years in existence, the Order of Mercy [Mercedarians] was founded as it were in the very face of the Moors; and hence it originally numbered more knights than clerks among its members. It was called the royal, military, and religious Order of [O]ur Lady of Mercy for the ransom of captives. The clerics were charged with the celebration of the Divine Office in the commandaries; the knights guarded the coasts, and undertook the perilous enterprise of ransoming Christian captives. St. Peter Nolasco was the first Commander or Grand Master of the Order; when his relics were discovered, he was found armed with sword and cuirass...."

[A reading from the Office for the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom then follows.]

"At the time when the Saracen yoke oppressed the larger and more fertile part of Spain, and great numbers of the faithful were detained in cruel servitude, at the great risk of denying the Christian faith and losing their eternal salvation, the most blessed Queen of heaven graciously came to remedy all these great evils, and showed her exceeding charity in redeeming her children. She appeared with beaming countenance to [St.] Peter Nolasco, a man conspicuous for wealth and piety, who in his holy meditations was ever striving to devise some means of helping the innumerable Christians living in misery as captives of the Moors. She told him it would be very pleasing to her and her only-begotten Son, if a religious Order were instituted in her honour, whose members should devote themselves to delivering captives from Turkish tyranny. Animated by this heavenly vision, the man of God was inflamed with burning love, having but one desire at heart, viz: that both he and the Order he was to found, might be devoted to the exercise of that highest charity, the laying down of life for one's friends and neighbours."

"The same night, the most holy Virgin appeared also to blessed Raymond of Pegnafort, and to James king of Aragon, telling them of her wish to have the Order instituted, and exhorting them to lend their aid to so great an undertaking. Meanwhile Peter hastened to relate the whole matter to Raymund, who was his confessor; and finding it had been already revealed to him from heaven, submitted humbly to his direction. King James next arrived, fully resolved to carry out the instructions he also had received from the blessed Virgin. Having therefore taken counsel together and being all of one mind, they set about instituting an Order in honour of the Virgin Mother, under the invocation of [O]ur Lady of Mercy for the ransom of captives."

"On the tenth of August, in the year of [O]ur Lord one thousand two hundred and eighteen, king James out into execution what the two holy men had planned. The members of the Order bound themselves by a fourth vow to remain, when necessary, as securities in the power of the pagans, in order to deliver Christians. The king granted them license to bear his royal arms upon their breast, and obtained from [Pope] Gregory IX the confirmation of this religious institute distinguished by such eminent brotherly charity. God [H]imself gave increase to the work, through [H]is Virgin Mother; so that the Order spread rapidly and prosperously over the whole world. It soon reckoned many holy men remarkable for their charity and piety who collected alms from Christ's faithful, to be spent in redeeming their brethren; and sometimes gave themselves up as ransom for many others. In order that due thanks might be rendered to God and [H]is Virgin Mother for the benefit of such an institution, the apostolic See allowed this special feast and Office to be celebrated, and also granted innumerable other privileges to the Order."
Blessed be thou, O Mary, the honour and the joy of thy people! On the day of thy glorious Assumption, thou didst take possession of thy queenly dignity for our sake; and the annals of the human race are a record of thy merciful interventions. The captives whose chains thou hast broken, and whom thou hast set free from the degrading yoke of the Saracens, may be reckoned by millions. We are still rejoicing in the recollection of thy dear birthday; and thy smile is sufficient to dry our tears and chase away the clouds of grief. And yet, what sorrows there still upon the earth, where thou thyself didst drink such long draughts from the cup of suffering! Sorrows are sanctifying and beneficial to some; but there are other and unprofitable griefs, springing from social injustice: the drudgery of the factory, or the tyranny of the strong over the weak, may be worse than slavery in Algiers or Tunis. Thou alone, O Mary, canst break the inextricable chains, in which the cunning prince of darkness entangles the dupes he has deceived by the high-sounding names of equality and liberty. Show thyself a Queen, by coming to the rescue. The whole earth, the entire human race, cries out to thee, in the words of Mardochai: 'Speak to the king for us, and deliver us from death!' [Esther xv. 3.]."

[For more on Our Lady of Ransom, visit CatholicCulture.org's page: Our Lady of Ransom.]

Our Lady of Ransom, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Solemn High Mass at Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian's in DC

On 16 September 2008, in comemmoration of the feast day of their patron St. Cyprian, Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC offered a Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass. Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of St. Cyprian's, offered the Mass. The parish choir assisted by singing some motets, along with a Gregorian chant schola from St. Mary, Mother of God parish, also in DC, where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered every Sunday and holy day. Another musical ensemble sang polyphany. It was the first Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass at the parish since the 1960s.

Msgr. Pope giving the homily.

St. Cyprian's parishoners are predominantly black, though for this Mass, there were people from many different races present. The statue of the Infant of Prague is near the center of the photograph.

Taken right before or during the Preface of the Mass.

The elevation of the Sacred Host.

The distribution of Communion -- there were nuns in attendance from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, some of whom are visible in this shot.

The sanctuary of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian's.

The columnade and the ceiling over the nave of the church.

Brass plaque the prayer in Latin said by priests as they wash their hands before Mass. It translates as, "Give strength to my hands, Lord, to wipe away all stain, so that I may be able to serve Thee in purity of mind and body."

Monday, September 15, 2008

St. Gabriel Possenti's Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows

[The following is excerpted from pgs. 24-26 of TAN Books and Publishers "Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother," originally published in 1958 under the title "Devotion to the Mother of Sorrows."]

"The life of St. Gabriel Possenti, who died February 27, 1862 at the age of twenty-four, manifests how quickly the Sorrowful Mother guides her clients to sanctity. The early life of the Saint gave no presage of his future holiness. In fact, for some time he resisted the grace of a religious vocation. However, having been called in a special manner by Our Lady to enter the Passionist Order, the hitherto rather worldly and pleasure-loving youth was changed to the humble, mortified Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows."

"It has been asserted that one of the chief sources of his sanctity was his tender, fervent devotion to the Sorrowful Mother. A particular love for her prompted him to choose this title for his name in religion. His devotion was concentrated on the Dolorous Mother. His meditations were made in her pierced heart; his constant desire was to meet her approval. Devotion to her clothed all his virtues and led him in a short time to the height of religious perfection. He spoke of her sorrows very often. She was his predominant thought, his heart, his all. 'My heaven is the dolorous Heart of my dear Mother!' he would often say."

Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, Most Likely In/From the Philippines

"St. Gabriel sought every means to promote this devotion among his companions. 'When we have a few minutes left over from our office,' he would say to them, 'we can use them to no better advantage than in compassionating our dear Mother.' If he had a little free time during the day, he always employed it in this exercise. 'Let us not forget her anguish, and at the hour of death, she will console and assist us,' he would say. Nor was his hope confounded. During his last illness, which he bore with heroic patience, he manifested most touching marks of affection for his sorrowing Mother. Often he would press her picture to his parched and burning lips. His dying act was to place an image of the Sorrowful Virgin upon his heart; then raising his eyes to Heaven, he cried with indescribable confidence and love: 'O my Mother, make haste!'"

"'He became a saint in so short a time and has had such a beautiful death!' exclaimed a brother religious at the edifying death of this angelic youth. Truly, Mary Sorrowful was his guide; she led him quickly up the mount of perfection and, at his peaceful death, enclosed him securely in the sanctuary of her wounded heart."

"Contary to custom, this youthful Saint was beatified less than fifty years after his death. His canonization took place on May 13, 1920."

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Mater Dolorosa, ora pro nobis!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Holy Name of Mary (Dom Guéranger)

(The following is excerpted from Dom Prosper Guéranger's entry in The Liturgical Year for the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Volume XIV of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"'And the Virgin's name was Mary [St. Luke i. 27.]. Let us speak a little about this name, which signifies star of the sea, and which so well befits the Virgin Mother. Rightly is she likened to a star: for as a star emits its ray without being dimmed so the Virgin brought forth her Son without receiving any injury; the ray takes nought from the brightness of the star, nor the Son from His Mother's integrity. This is the noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray illumines the world world, whose splendour shines in the heavens, penetrates the abyss, and, traversing the whole earth, gives warmth rather to souls than to bodies, cherishing virtues, withering vices. Mary, I say, is that bright and incomparable star, whom we need to see raised above this vast sea, shining by her merits, and giving us light by her example."

"Oh! whosoever thou art that seest thyself, amid the tides of this world, tossed about storms and tempests rather than walking on the land, turn not thine eyes away from the shining of this star if thou wouldst not be overwhelmed by the hurricane. If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary. If thou art tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of thy soul, turn thine eyes towards Mary. If, trouble by the enormity of thy crimes, ashamed of thy guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, thou beginnest to sink into sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let her be ever on thy lips, ever in thy heart; and the better to obtain the help of her prayers, imitate the example of her life. Following her, thou strayest not; invoking her, thou despairest not; thinking of her, thou wanderest not; upheld by her, thou fallest not; shielded by her, thou fearest not; guided by her, thou growest not weary; favoured by her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: And the Virgin's name was Mary' [from a homily of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, cites in the Lesson of the 2nd nocturn of the Office of the feast].

"Thus speaks the devout St. Bernard, in the name of the Church. But his pious explanation does not exhaust the meanings of this blessed name of Mary. St. Peter Chrysologus adds in this same night Office: 'Mary in Hebrew signifies lady or sovereign; and truly the authority of her Son, who is the Lord of the world, constituted her Queen, both in fact and in name, from her very birth' [from a sermon of his on the Annunciation]."

"OUR LADY: such is the title which befits her in every way, as that of OUR LORD beseems her Son; it is the doctrinal basis of that worship [meaning veneration, not adoration] of hyperdulia which belongs to her alone. She is below her Son, whom she adores as we do; but above all God's servants, both angels and men, inasmuch as she is His Mother; At the name of Jesus every knee is bent; at the name of Mary every head is bowed. And although the former is the only name whereby we may be saved; yet, as the Son can never be separated from His Mother, heaven unites their two names in its hymns of praise, earth in its confidence, hell in its fear and hatred."

"It was therefore in the order of divine Providence that devotion to the most holy name of Mary should spread simultaneously with the cultus of the adorable names of Jesus, of which St. Bernadin[e] of Siena was the apostle in the fifteenth century. In 1513 the Church of Cuenca in Spain was the first to celebrate, with the approbation of the holy See, a special feast in honour of the name of Mary, while the Franciscan Order had not yet succeeded in obtaining a like privilege for the adorable name of Jesus. The reason of this is that the memory of that sacred name included in the feast of the Circumcision, seemed to the prudence of the Pontiffs to suffice. From the same motive we find the feast of the most holy name of Mary extended to universal Church in the year 1683, and that of the most holy name of Jesus not yet until 1721."

"Our Lady justifies her beautiful title by partaking in the warlike exploits of the King of kings her Son. The city of Vienna having been delivered by her, contrary to all hope, from the power of the Crescent, the venerable Innocent XI made this feast the memorial of universal gratitude to the liberatrix of the west...."

Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland, displayed in the Monastery of Jasna Gora in Poland, which was visited by King Jan Sobieski before leaving with his army to fight the Turks.

(The following is excerpted from Dom Guéranger's entry in The Liturgical Year for September 12, in the same volume of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"'Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array? [Cant. vi.9.]' Such is thy growth , O Mary! Not the holiest life, were it even of patriarchal duration, will ever attain the degree of progress made under the influence of divine power by the soul of the most pure Virgin, in these few days elapsed since her coming on earth. First, there is the progress of her intellect: not subject to the obscurity which envelops the minds of all men at their entrance into the world, it is a faithful mirror, into which the Word of God pours floods of that light which is also life. Then the progress of love in that heart of the Virgin and the Mother, wherein the holy Spirit already delights to awake such ineffable harmonies, and to dig still deeper depths. Lastly, the progress of that victorious power, which made satan tremble at the moment of the Immaculate Conception, and which has constituted Mary the incomparable Queen of the hosts of the Lord."

"Two glorious triumphs, two victories won under the protection of our Lady, have rendered this present day illustrious in the annals of the Church and of history."

"Manicheism, revived under a variety of names, had established itself in the south of France, whence it hoped to spread its reign of shameless excess. But [Saint] Dominic appeared with Mary's [R]osary for the defence of the people. On September 12, 1213, Simon de Montfort and the crusaders of the faith, one against forty, crushed the Albigensian army at Muret. This was in the pontificate of Innocent III."

"Nearly five centuries late, the Turks, who had more than once caused the west to tremble, again poured down upon Christendom. Vienna, worn out and dismantled, abandoned by its emperor, was surrounded by 300,000 infidels. But another great Pope, Innocent XI, again confided to Mary the defence of the baptized nations. [King] Sobieski, mounting his charger on the feast of our Lady's Assumption, hastened from Poland by forced marches. On the Sunday within the octave of the Nativity [of the Blessed Virgin Mary], September 12, 1683, Vienna was delivered; and then began for the Osmanlis that series of defeats which ended in the treaties of Carlowitz and Passarowitz, and the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire. The feast of the most holy name of Mary inscribed on the calendar of the universal Church, was the homage of the world's gratitude to Mary, our Lady and Queen."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Why is Mary 'Star of the Sea'? (Excerpt from a Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity of the BVM)

[Image of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, at Mary Star of the Sea High School in San Pedro, California]

[Taken from the liner notes for "Gregorian Melodies - Popular Chants, Volume I," a music album by the Monastic Choir of St. Peter's Abbey, Solesmes]

"'Maris stella' : 'Star of the sea'. This title is one of the given etymologies of 'Mary,' in Hebrew. Fulbert de Charters (†1028) wrote the following for a sermon on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady:

"Navigators on the high seas need to fix the star shining well above the sky's horizon, so as to know their position and the course they are on; thus do they hope to attain their port of destination. In the same way, brothers, all the faithful of Christ, as they struggle amidst the waves of this world, gaze steadily at the star of the sea -- by which I mean, Mary -- who, because she is placed so high above the horizon of earthly realites, is close to God. They imitate her example in order to determne the course of their lives, so as not to be shaken by the winds of vain glory, nor broken upon the rocks of adversity. In this way, they will happily arrive at the port of their eternal repose."
[A short history of the hymn, from Ave Maris Stella:]

"Ave Maris Stella is a popular liturgical hymn of unknown origin. It can be dated back to at least the 9th century for it is preserved in the Codex Sangallensis, a 9th century manuscript now in the Swiss Monastery of St. Gallen. Its appearance in the Codex points to a composition in possibly the 8th century. The hymn is frequently attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and sometimes has been attributed to King Robert (1031), both of whom are too late to have authored it. It has also been attributed to [St.] Venantius Fortunatus (d 609) and Paul the Deacon (d 787). It is found in ancient codices of the Divine Office for Vespers on Marian feasts. Today it is still in use in the Divine Office and in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin."

[See previous post for further commentary and information about this beautiful hymn.]

"The Blessed Virgin Mary is called the Star of the Sea. Those who sail the ocean seas are guided to the port they seek by carefully observing the stars. In the same way, Christians are guided to heavenly glory by keeping their eyes on Mary."
-St. Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Commentary on the "Ave Maris Stella"

[A true friend of mine, whom I've known for just over a year, gave me a present, in true Hobbit form, at her birthday party this month. The present, a sixty-year-old book, is a 1948 reprint of a 1914 edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, printed by E.J. Dwyer, an Australian publisher. Not only does it have the all the prayers of the Little Office, it contains something I had never seen before, a commentary on the prayers themselves. She knew that I would greatly appreciate this book, and I am truly grateful that she gave me this book. The commentary below is on the ancient and beautiful hymn to Our Lady (and one of my personal favorites), the Ave Maris Stella, and it is taken from the Mirror of Our Lady, a 15th century commentary on the Office written by Dr. Thomas Gascoigne of Oxford University for the Sisters of Sion, who belonged to the Brigittine Order.]

Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma.
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix caeli porta.

"I. 'Ave, Star of ocean. This hymn hath seven verses. In the first verse ye praise our Lady of four things. One is that she is called the Star of the Sea; for as that is comfortable to shipman, so is our Lady comfort to all that are in bitterness of tribulation or temptation in the sea of this world; and therefore her name Maria is as much to say as Star of the sea; and so Ave Maria and Ave Maris stella is all one. The second is that she is Mother of God. The third is that she is Ever-Virgin. The fourth is that she is the Gate of heaven. Her Son calleth Himself in His Gospel the Door, for as a man may not well come into a house but by the door, nor to the door but by the gate, so may none come into heaven but by our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Door, nor to our Lord Jesus Christ but by our Lady, that is, the Gate.'"

Sumens illud Ave,
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Hevae nomen.

"2. 'In the second verse ye praise our Lady for two things, and one ye ask of her. First ye thank her for that she assented to the greeting of Gabriel; for thereby began our health, as our perdition began by the assent of Eve to the fiend. The second, because she hath turned the woe that Eva brought us into joy; and so she hath change her name Eva into Ave, for Eva spelled backwards maketh Ave, and Eva is as much to say as woe, and Ave is a word of joy. Then ye ask of her stability of peace.'"

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen caecis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

"3. 'In the third verse ye ask of her four things that man needeth to have help in after he is fallen to sin, for by sin he falleth in to four great mischiefs. One is that he is so bound therein that he may not of himself come out thereof; and as a man may yield himself bound to a lord, but he may not be free again after when he will, right so is it of man that maketh himself thrall to the fiend by deadly sin; and therefore ye pray our Lady that she will loose the bonds of sinners and make them free. Another mischief is, that when a man is fallen into deadly sin, the fiend blindeth him so in his sin that he can neither see the peril that he standeth in, nor how to get him help of deliverance; and therefore in this ye ask our Lady's help. The third mischief is the great vengeance that man deserveth by sin, both temporal and everlasting; and the fourth is the loss of all goods of grace and glory. And therefore against all these four mischiefs ye pray to our Lady, and say: Break the captive's fetters, for the first; Light to blind restoring, for the second; All our ill expelling, for the third; Every bliss impore, for the fourth.'"

Monstra te esse Matrem,
Sumat per te preces,
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

"4. 'In the fourth ye pray her to show herself a Mother to our Lord and to the wretched. As a mother tendereth her child in all manner of peril and disease that he is in, so she vouchsafes to show motherly tenderness to us in all our needs, bodily and ghostly. And as a mother may get from her son what she will reasonably desire of him, so she vouchsafes to speed our errands before our Lord, that it may appear well that she is His Mother.'"

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos.

"5. 'In the fifth verse ye praise her in two virtues that is, in maidenhood and mildness; and ye ask of her these virtues according to the same -- that is, deliverance from sin; mildness; and chastity.'"

Vitam presta puram,
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Jesum,
Semper collaetemur.

"6. 'In the sixth verse ye ask of her three things. The first is clean life; the second is true continuance therein unto the end, that ye may then have true passage; and the third is endless joy in the sight and beholding of God.'"

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus. Amen.

"7. 'In the seventh verse ye praise the Blessed Trinity.'"

[Listen to the Gregorian chant of this hymn at Ave Maris Stella, as sung by two soloists from the choir of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. I couldn't find a satisfactory version of it done by a men's schola, so this version suffices. For the English translation, see Latin words and English translation of the words of Ave Maris Stella]