Liturgical Hymns

From our liturgical correspondent

When hearing confessions, it is a common desire of a confessor to tailor the penances to the liturgical season so as to both teach and edify the faithful: penances such as the Verbum supernum during Advent, the Adeste fideles during Christmastide, the Ave Regina Caelorum during Lent, the Crux fidelis during Passiontide, the Regina Caeli in Eastertide, etc. But regrettably these and other hymns are known by fewer faithful as every year passes. The conversation might go something like this:

"I'm sorry father, I'm not sure I know that one. Perhaps it's in my missal, but I don't have it with me..."

"Do you have a smartphone then?"

“Err, yes, father."

"Well do a search on these words ‘v-e-x-i-l-l-a—space—r-e-g-i-s'..."

The liturgical hymns of the Divine Office are masterpieces of poetry and doctrine. They are written by the great saints of the Church and have educated and sanctified souls for centuries. All our favourite saints have prayed them and meditated upon them with fervour. Who knows, even those who were born before they were written may well be reciting them in heaven!

In our present straightened times, however, the average traditional Catholic, being deprived of a thoroughly Catholic education in a school run by religious, and only experiencing the minimum of liturgy in its simplest form, are strangers to these jewels. To such souls, it is necessary to find, study, meditate upon, recite, sing and pray these hymns, not only for their own spiritual nourishment, but for posterity. We are the last links in

a beautiful chain spanning 20 centuries and the future of tradition depends on us passing on to the next generation that which the saints now proffer to us. The website is an excellent resource.

The Alma Redemptoris Mater is a good simple hymn to start with. It is the hymn sung in the Divine Office at Compline from the first Sunday of Advent until the feast of the Purification of Our Lady on 2 February. The hymn is attributed to Hermann Contractus (1013–1054) and can be sung in a solemn tone or the simple tone below:

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