Sing of Mary

"Sing of Mary, pure and lowly, virgin mother, undefiled...."  Mary's story begins with a song, the Magnificat, and the Church has been singing with her and about her ever since. Her own song of praise, the Magnificat, is sung (or said) daily in the evening throughout much of the Church, in elegantly simple plainsong and in grand settings accompanied by organ or orchestra. And through the years many hymns and spiritual songs have been written in praise of Mary and in prayer to Mary. There are four proper antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sung in different seasons of the Church year. The antiphon appointed for the season after Pentecost is the Salve Regina.

Salve Regina

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
    in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

Hail holy queen, mother of mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve,
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
    in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate
your eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this, our exile,
Show us the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Click here to hear the Salve Regina sung by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee.

Sculpture of the Mother of God in repose - Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem

Hail, Holy Queen
(metrical version of Salve Regina)

Hail, holy Queen enthroned above, O Maria.
Hail, Mother of mercy and of love, O Maria.
Refrain:  Triumph, all ye cherubim, Sing with us, ye seraphim,
Heaven and earth resound the hymn:
Salve, salve, salve Regina!

Our life, our sweetness, here below, O Maria!
Our hope in sorrow and in woe, O Maria!

To thee we cry, poor sons of Eve, O Maria!
To thee we sigh, we mourn, we grieve, O Maria!

Turn then most gracious Advocate, O Maria!
Toward us thine eyes compassionate, O Maria!

The cause of joy to men below, O Maria!
The spring through which all graces flow, O Maria!
Angels, all your praises bring, Earth and heaven, with us sing,
All creation echoing:
Salve, salve, salve Regina!

Click here for the Oremus Hymnal accompaniment to "Hail, Holy Queen."
Click here for a livelier(!) version of the same hymn from the film Sister Act.

Mary in The Hymnal 1982
(the official hymnal of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.)

Hymns can (and should!) be profoundly theological. They are an integral part of corporate prayer and very much subject to the rule, lex orandi lex credendi ("we believe what we pray"). Many of the hymns in The Hymnal 1982 refer to Mary and give us a picture of her place in the Episcopal Church and, more importantly, her place in the Christian understanding of things. It turns out to be a remarkably high view. On the other hand, clergy and musicians have choices regarding hymns and so there are some hymns that would never be sung in certain congregations. Here is a brief survey of some important statements about Mary in our hymns. If a hymn number is underlined, you may click on it to go to a page of the Oremus Hymnal with a midi recording of the tune.

Hymn 618, "Ye watchers and ye holy ones", tells us that Mary is "higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim.”

Hymn 620, "Jerusalem, my happy home," affirms that in heaven Mary sings the Magnificat.

Hymn 60, the Advent hymn "Creator of the stars of night," reminds us that Jesus has come among us as "the child of Mary, blameless mother mild.”

Hymn 110, "The snow lay on the ground," tells us about Mary's parentage: "'Twas Mary, daughter pure of holy Anne, that brought into the world the God made man."

Hymn 258, "Virgin-born, we bow before thee," paints a graphic picture of Mary as the mother of Jesus: "Blessed was the breast that fed thee; blessed was the hand that led thee; blessed was the parent’s eye that watched thy slumbering infancy."

Hymn 264, "The Word whom earth and sea and sky adore" tells how Mary first learned of her blessed vocation: “to Mary the Archangel came."

Hymn 265, "The angel Gabriel from heaven came," continues the story of the Annunciation and calls Mary "most highlv favored Lady."

Hymn 269 calls upon us "who claim the faith of Jesus" to sing "Hail Mary, full of grace."

Hymn 278 brings her story to its glorious close, inviting us to "Sing the chiefest joy of Mary, when on earth her work was done, and the Lord of all creation brought her to his heavenly home, where, raised high with saints and angels, in Jerusalem above, she beholds her Son and Savior reigning as the Lord of Love." The Prayer Book may hesitate to speak directly of her Assumption, but the Hymnal has no doubts.

And hymn 475, "God himself is with us," brings us into Mary's story, as we pray, "let my soul, like Mary, be thine earthly sanctuary."


Full Homely Divinity Home Page