Alma Redemptoris Mater

And so we begin a new liturgical year with the joyful season of Advent. It is a time of waiting, expectation, hope, penance and preparation. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, we ask ourselves whether we are ready not just for the feast of His Nativity, but also for His second coming at the end of time. We must remain vigilant, so that we, like the Shepherds who ran to greet the Baby Jesus at the manger in Bethlehem, might go to meet our Redeemer and Judge free from sin and every worldly attachment. 

“The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception” by Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649), currently on display in the exhibition “The Sacred made Real,” The National Gallery, London

Who better, then, to turn to than the sinless Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary? We think of her caring for the unborn Christ in her womb in these last weeks before Christmas (as in the former feast of Our Lady’s Expectation, 18th Dec), but we principally honour her Immaculate Conception (8th Dec), when we celebrate the fact that Our Lady was conceived entirely without original sin, in order to be the worthy Mother of God’s Only-Begotten Son. 

We acclaim Mary as the “Dear Mother of the Redeemer” in the Antiphon de Beata proper to this season, the Alma Redemptoris Mater. Here is the Solemn tone of that antiphon in Norbertine chant.

The Premonstratensian Vespers hymn for Advent is Conditor alme siderum, as is the case with most monastic Breviaries. The Roman Rite, however, uses Pope Urban VIII’s much adapted version of this 7th century hymn, Creator alme siderum, which was produced during a period of frenzied classicisation of early ecclesiastical Latin hymnody. As you might expect, the Premonstratensian Office has its own melody for this lovely hymn, which we will shortly reproduce here along with JM Neale’s fantastic English translation below:

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting Light;
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death an universe,
Hast found the med’cine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruin’d race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the Bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a Virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow
And things celestial thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O thou, whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From ev’ry insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honour, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.  Amen.

We wish all our readers a blessed Advent.

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