Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marvelled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel’s mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(Cardinal Newman’s translation)

The Dominican tune is more elaborate than the more widely-known Roman plainchant version, and has its roots in the Cistercian Order, whose liturgy St Dominic adapted back in the thirteenth century for his new order. 

That the antiphon is still sung from the start of Advent until Candlemas marks the persistence of the ‘long Christmas’ season which until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council ran all the way up to 2nd February; in the contemporary calendar this period before Lent and after Christmas is marked as the first weeks of ‘Ordinary Time’. 

Ambrose Johannes, Oxford fraternity

January 2022