The figure of Our Lady stands out very prominently in these days of Advent. Her two great privileges, upon which all of the other honors and titles we give to Mary are based, the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION and the DIVINE MATERNITY shine luminously in this preparation phase of the Christmas Cycle.
In our spiritual preparation for the Christmas Feast it might be helpful for us to consider the hymns of Mary. The first hymn to consider is the one sung by Our Lady herself, her Canticle of Praise in St. Luke’s Gospel—the Magnificat. Here we see the purity of Mary’s heart as she gives God the praise for fulfilling the scriptural promises of redemption. I recommend committing Our Lady’s Magnificat to memory. Here is a translation from a musical setting to the Magnificat which I remember singing in the Seminary schola:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; for He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden, And, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His Name, and His mercy is on those who fear Him throughout all generations.
He hath shone the strength of His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
He hath put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel, as He promised to our Forefathers, Abraham and his seed forever.
In the liturgy of the Divine Office the Magnificat is sung every evening at Vespers, making use of the inspired words of Mary to thank God for another day of redemption. The Magnificat is also an especially beautiful prayer to recite as a private thanksgiving upon receiving Holy Communion.
Another hymn of Our Lady is the Marian Antiphon used from the First Sunday of Advent until February 2nd, the Alma Redemptoris. Here is a translation of that Antiphon:
Loving Mother of the Redeemer, Gate of
Heaven and Star of the Sea, come quickly to the
aid of thy people, fallen indeed but striving to
stand again. To the wonderment of Nature
thou wert the Mother of thy Holy Creator
without ceasing to be a virgin, and heard from
Gabriel that greeting “Hail”. Have pity on us
A third hymn of Our Lady for our meditation is one of the Marian hymns sung throughout the year on the feast-days of Our Lady, including the feast we have just celebrated, the Immaculate Conception. It is titled O Gloriosa Virginum.
O Most Glorious of Virgins, exalted among the stars, thou didst nurse at the breast the Little One who created thee.
Thou dost give back to us through thy loving Child what Eve through God’s curse had lost for us: thou openest the gates of heaven that Eve’s sorrowing children may enter.
Thou art the Royal Door for the heavenly King and the Shining Palace for the light from above.
Rejoice, ransomed world, that through the Virgin life has been given to us.
This hymn was the particular favorite of St. Anthony of Padua and it was the hymn he tried to sing on his deathbed, June 13th, A.D. 1231.