The Marian antiphon “Alma Redemptoris Mater” is sung at the end of the canonical hour of Compline from the first Sunday of Advent until after second Vespers of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, February 2. The text is attributed to Blessed Hermannus of Reichenau (1013-1054), a Benedictine monk and scholar of the 11th century. The Latin text reads:
Alma Redemptóris Mater, quæ pérvia cæli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succúrre cadénti,
Súrgere qui curat pópulo: tu quæ genuísti,
Natúra miránte, tuum sanctum Genitórem
Virgo prius ac postérius, Gabriélis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatórum miserere.
A beautiful translation into English was done by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman in the 19th century, which reads:
Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel’s mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.
The text has two settings, one solemn, which is sung on Sundays and days the rank of feast and solemnity, and one simple, sung on weekdays and memorials. While both are splendid, the solemn setting of the text is one of the crowning jewels of the chant repertoire. As is the case with much of the Norbertine chant corpus, our solemn setting differs from the Gregorian version in little details that make it unique.
Advent being a uniquely Marian season, it is hoped that the reading of this prayer will bring a rich source of meditation into our lives in the days preceding Christmas and in Christmastide. The “fiat” of the Blessed Virgin changed history and was the beginning of our redemption; such considerations bring to the foreground our motives for gratitude to the Lord, Who is so great in His Providence.