Music and Meditation for the Second Sunday of Advent

Inspired by yesterday’s celebration in honor of our country’s patronessMary, Immaculata — today’s musical selection is “Alma Redemptoris Mater:”

Alma Redemptoris Mater,
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
surgere qui curat, populo:
tu quae genuisti, natura mirante,
tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius,
Gabrielis ab ore,sumens illud Ave,
peccatorum miserere.

Translation:
Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen
yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

My recommendation? Listen to the “Simple Tone” chant a few times before moving to Palestrina’s interpretation, which uses the chant as its melodic foundation:

The “Solemn Tone” chant is a bit more complex, and there are a number of beautiful settings written by Renaissance polyphonic composers: Josquin, Philips, Victoria, and Lhéritier. Charpentier offers his distinctively Baroque touch as well, but there appear to be few subsequent settings.

Here are a few thoughts from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman on my favorite image from the prayer, Mary as “Gate of Heaven/Portal of the Sky:”

Scripture says: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold; and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband, and he did eat.” It was fitting then in God’s mercy that, as the woman began the destruction of the world, so woman should also begin its recovery, and that, as Eve opened the way for the fatal deed of the first Adam, so Mary should open the way for the great achievement of the second Adam, even our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to save the world by dying on the cross for it. Hence Mary is called by the holy Fathers a second and a better Eve, as having taken that first step in the salvation of mankind which Eve took in its ruin.

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