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:

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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.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • Maggie Goff

    Wow, I just spent about an hour or more here on this post, not really sure as I lost track of time. Thank you so much. Such beauty! I saved the whole page and the links, including the meditations from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Such a treasure this post is. Thank you again.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat/ Joseph Susanka

      So glad to hear it, Maggie! My pleasure.

  • Dada S

    Thanks for this. What a great help to meditation: the Alma Redemptoris Mater itself and the splendid music which it has inspired, the links to Wikipedia’s treatments of the various Councils of Baltimore, the beauty of Titian’s depiction, the reminder of Blessed John Henry Newman. Beautifully crafted, artful blog today.

    I wonder whether it is right to say there is art even in the chant?


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