Christmas Mass at Dawn

From the rising of the sun
To the world’s furthest edge,
We sing to Christ our Prince,
Born of the Virgin Mary.

Blessed maker of the ages
Now takes up the body of a slave,
So flesh may unfetter flesh,
That what He made is not lost.

This ancient Latin hymn for Christmas Lauds, A Solis Cardine, refers to the dawn and the course of the sun across the sky. It also connects this idea with the saving of our flesh by the coming of Christ in the flesh. We pass from darkness into light, from despair to hope, because Christ enters the darkling earth as the Light of the World. Continue reading

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Regina Caeli

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Queen of Heaven Rejoice!
O Queen of heaven rejoice! alleluia:
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia,
Hath arisen as he said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

This is the Regina Caeli, the great Marian antiphon for Easter, and, when it is first sung at the celebration of the Easter vigil, we will be reminded of the preeminence of Our Lady’s faith. She is the first to rejoice in the Easter mystery, not because She sees the empty tomb, but because She is certain, without need of seeing that sign, that what the Lord has promised will come to pass.

The Regina Caeli is about the victory of Our Lady’s faith. There is a tradition that the antiphon was composed, after a manner, by St. Gregory the Great, when in 596 Rome was ravaged by a plague, and he in response turned in confidence to Our Lady. St. Gregory organized a procession through the streets of Rome, which began at the ancient Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli on the capitoline hill, where He took into the procession an ancient Icon of Our Lady, said to be painted by St. Luke. As he passed the Tomb of Hadrian, as it was then called, he heard angels sing the first three lines of the Regina Caeli. He responded with the fourth line: Pray for us to God! The plague was ended, the Tomb of Hadrian was renamed Castle Santa’ Angelo (The Castle of the Angel), and the Regina Caeli was inscribed on the ceiling of the Church of the Ara Coeli. The same ceiling, centuries later, would be gilded and paneled in commemoration of the Victory of the Christian forces over the Ottoman Turks at the Bay of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. St. Pius V at the time instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, because it was through Her intercession, obtained by praying the Rosary, that led to victory. The Queen of Heaven is Our Lady of Victory, and She is always victorious because of Her faith. Continue reading