Sunday, August 17, 2008

August 15: Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Part II

I would just like to note that Friday night's celebration of the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary was possibly the gayest religious service I've ever been to. Same-sex couples (and singles), both men and women, packed the place to the rafters.

And everybody loved every moment, and sang the Marian hymns - "Ye who own the faith of Jesus," from the English hymnal; "Immaculate Mary" (also called "The Lourdes Hymn") from the public domain - this one:

And "In splendor arrayed": the words of which you can find - where else? - at St. Clement's Philadelphia; they are also from the public domain, and here sung to the tune of Parry's "O Praise Ye the Lord," bless me! - lustily and happily. And in 4 parts, and well. It was just terrific, in every possible way. (Really; it's so nice to see gay people feeling relaxed and happy and welcome in the usually so hostile and poisonous atmosphere of the Christian church. Finally. Thank God for St. M.V.)

The Propers of the Day use some terrific texts, too. Here are the words to the Introit (and here's the mp3 from
Signum magnum apparuit in coelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim. -- Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit. V.: Gloria Patri . . . -- Signum magnum apparuit in coelo . . .

A great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. -- Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because He hath done wonderful things. V.: Glory be to the Father . . . -- A great sign appeared in heaven . . .

That's Revelation, baby! All the Propers are like this, too. Of course, when you celebrate an event that doesn't actually appear anywhere in the sacred texts, it's possible to go wild with imagery from who-knows-where.

Here's the page at with all the mass chants.

The musical highlight of the evening, though, was Cristóbal de Morales' Exaltata Est Sancta Dei Genetrix, sung as the Motet at Communion. Completely gorgeous - and it goes on forever. A note in the bulletin about it says: "Verse, response, and Antiphon on the Magnificat at First Vespers for the Feast of the Assumption. Here are the words:
Exaltata est sancta Dei Genitrix
super chorus Angelorum
ad caelestia regna.

Virgo prudentissima
Quo progrederis,
quasi aurora valde rutilans?
Filia Sion.
Tota formosa et suavis es:
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol.

The holy mother of God has been exalted,
above the choirs of angels,
in the heavenly kingdom.

O most prudent Virgin,
whither do you go,
you who are like the rosy dawn?
O Daughter of Zion.
All beautiful and sweet you are:
fair as the moon, bright as the sun.

Isn't that wonderful? If you can possibly find this piece, it's really quite amazing! Here's a sample, at; here's another part of it, from this CD.

As for art: well, a lot of it's kind of cheesy, if you ask me - although I do like this:

And I like this, too (from I can't remember anymore where):

And I really like the "Girdle(s) of Mary" story told during the sermon (apparently the BVM handed off her belt to Thomas from heaven; apparently, also, there are or were several of these belts - one in Tuscany and one at Athos - and several such stories). Anyway, here's at little icon of one of these events, I'm not sure which:


Dan said...

Wow, you just threw me in a complete loop! I've found that most people interested in sacred chant and traditional liturgy are also orthodox and traditional in their theology, while the folk-song Kum-Ba-Yah people swing toward the dissident/liberal. I had you in my head as the former.

I couldn't disagree with you more about the gay service. But keep the chants coming!

(I'll say a Hail Mary for you.)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you all the way on this. Assumption is one of my favorite feasts;I have done personal concerts on 8/15 when I haven't had a church job and really do it up when I do. And more Pride to ya! Who was that guy that said the greatest commandment is to "Love One Another?"

bls said...

Thanks, Lisa!


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