The Fourth Sunday of Advent, the origin of the Hail Mary

During Advent, the Sacred Liturgy is replete with references to the Blessed Virgin Mary who bore the Word Made Flesh in Her womb. From prophesies about the tender shoot that came from the root of Jesse to chant motifs appearing in the propers, Our Lady is evoked and invoked continually.

Today, I was astounded to learn that the origin of the Hail Mary that we pray so regularly finds its origin in the offertory chant of today’s Mass. I was aware that the ‘Holy Mary Mother of God’ part of the prayer was added later but according to the liturgical scholar Fr Lasance, the first time that the angelic salutation (Hail Mary) and the greeting of St Elizabeth (Blessed art thou among women) were placed together was in the offertory chant of today’s Mass.

This chant dates back to the Gregorian Antiphonary (compiled by Pope Gregory the Great, 6th century) used in the early Roman basilicas which was widely considered to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore untouchable- and we sang it this morning!

Requiem Sequence: Dies Irae

The sequence of the Requiem Mass is both an exquisite piece of poetry and a striking meditation on the four last things. It is quite astounding that this prose was supressed in the new Mass of Paul VI and even the tract is replaced with the Alleluia! This is key to understanding the principle ‘lex Orlando, lex credendi’ because this change in the prayer of the church signifies a significant change in belief.

The Dies Irae provides a sobering meditation to us and excites a keen desire to pray for the Holy Souls. May we all redouble our efforts to assist them by our prayer, fasting, almsgiving, indulgences and Masses.

In a lighter note, here is a presentation about the influence that the chant of the Dies Irae has had on popular culture.