A new liturgical season calls for a new Marian antiphon. So with Advent beginning at First Vespers last Saturday until the Purification of Mary (February 2nd), the monks are singing Alma Redemptoris Mater as the Marian hymn following the Office of Vigils. This hymn dates at least to the 11th century and is said to have been composed by Herman the Cripple. The popularity of Alma Redemptoris Mater is demonstrated by the fact that it is found in the “The Prioress’ Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
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 marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel’s mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.
(translated by Cardinal John Henry Newman)