02 July 2009


That is, fixed, emended. Today I've had the joy [thanks to a heads up from Pr. Paul McCain and the kind sharing of Pr. Ben Mayes] of looking over two texts that were rewritten, apparently by Urbanus Rhegius (confessor of Smalcald and evangelical bishop of Lüneburg). The originals were very popular and beloved antiphons to the Blessed Virgin. In the Lutheran Reformation, they were transformed into hymns to Christ (and the original chant lines preserved). I'm no Latinist, so pardon any goof ups in the translations, but I think they're mostly on target:

Here's the Salve Regina:

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Hail, Queen, Mother of mercy,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
our life, sweetness and hope, hail!
ad te clamamus
to you we cry
exsules filii Hevae,
exiled children of Eve
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
to you we send up our sighs, groaning and moaning
in hac lacrimarum valle.
in this valley of tears
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
Turn, our advocate, upon us
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
Your merciful eyes
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
And Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
show to us after this exile,
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

What happens with the Lutherans got hold of it? Check it out:

SAlue Iesu Christe, Rex misericordiæ,
Hail, Jesus Christ, King of mercy,
vita dulcedo & spes nostra,salue,
Our life, sweetness, and hope, hail!
ad te clamamus exules filij Euæ,
To you we cry, exiled children of Eve
ad te suspiramus gementes & flentes,
To you we send up our sighs and moanings
in hac lacrymarum valle,
in this valley of tears,
Eya ergo, aduocate noster, illos tuos
Turn, therefore, our Advocate upon us
misericordes oculos ad nos conuerte,
Your merciful eyes
O Iesu benedicte, faciem patris tui nobis
O blessed Jesus, show to us the face of your Father
post hoc exilium ostende,
after this exile.
O clemens, O pie, O dulcis Iesu Christe.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Jesus Christ.

Similarly, the Regina Coeli:

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare. alleluia,
For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
Is risen, as He said, alleluia,
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, Virgin Mary, alleluia.
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Because the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

is now sung with these words to the old chant:

LÆtemur in Christo redemptore Alleluia
Rejoice in Christ the Redeemer Alleluia
quia quem percussit pater ob scelus populi sui Alleluia.
For he was struck by the Father for the sins of his people Alleluia.
Resurrexit (Cœlos ascendit / Spirtum
misit) sicut dixit (sicut dixit / Vt promisit) Alleluia.
He is risen (to heaven ascended/ sent the Spirit) just as He said (as He said / as He promised) Alleluia
Ora pro nobis Christe, qui ad dexteram Dei Patris locatus es
Pray for us, Christ, who at the right hand of God the Father are located
victor peccati, mortis, inferni,
Victor over sin, death, hell,
vnus es nobis propitiator pontifex, ecclesiæ caput:
Our one propitator, high priest, the church's head
O rex pie, Fac nos tecum resurgere (Fac nos tecum ascendere / Da nobis tuum
Spiritum) Alleluia.
O loving King, make us rise with you (make us ascend with you / give to us your Spirit). Alleluia.

If the medieval Marian cult had for all intents and purposes shoved our Lord off the center and placed His most holy Mother there, it only makes sense that in the Lutheran Reformation, the beauty of the chants would be retained, but the spotlight would shift from the the Most Blessed Virgin to Him who was born of her, and to the triumph of what He accomplished and His constant intercession for us before His Father.

[The emended texts, by the bye, came from this work that Pr. Mayes showed to Pr. McCain this a.m. - I'm jealous! I want a copy!!!]


Paul McCain said...

Delightful and I know that there is nobody more pleased than the Dear Lady who said, "Whatever He tells you, do."

Paul McCain said...

Oh, one more thing. I am not sure if Ben mentioned it to you, Will, but...the book offers a preface of the revision of the Regina Coeli, noting that the Regina Coeli is an "evil prayer."

I was delighted to see that our old friend Urbanus Rhegius was responsible for this.

Past Elder said...

What possible point is there in any of this?

Unlike the liturgy, these two of the four Marian hymns are not things that went awry over time under Rome, they are original compositions meant to be exactly what they are and nothing else, and are sung at Compline (Lauds too if you're really into it).

As a Lutheran, therefore, there is nothing to reform here back to its purity in accord with the liturgical aims of the Confessions. Nothing here different than the idea that we can infuse Lutheran content into CCM. Nor, being hymns, are they properly part of chant either, a practice which can be used.

Had I seen this sort of stuff as an RC, it would have only further confirmed what I thought at the time, that Lutherans are just wannabe Catholics who don't get the message of the church which comes from Christ and the Apostles and thus rewrite whatever they don't like to suit themselves.

In late Latin like this, a variant Regina coeli came to be interchangeable with Regina caeli, and you will sometimes hear German singers pronounce the oe as an Umlaut, which is kind of amusing.

Anonymous said...

So.. how did all the Mary worship come about anyhow?

Paul McCain said...

Sasse develops a very good case that the seed of the Cult of Mary lies in the worship of Diana in Roman culture and it was a way to appease/accomodate and provide some kind of substitute for a desire to have some kind of woman deity.

He makes quite a lot of sense.

"Anonymous" if you would be willing to identify yourself, I'd be happy to send you more information.

Contact me at paul.mccain@cph.org

William Weedon said...


I suspect that the Good Bishop Urbanus offered an "evangelical" rendering because the two hymns were rather beloved musical pieces, and the people were used to them at the end of Vespers/Compline. So he stayed as close as he could to the original wording, but redirected them to our Lord. It's easier to replace in popular piety than simply to take away.


I've never been persuaded by the whole Diana thingy. I think Sasse was onto something more profound when he noted that the place where one would expect prayer to the Holy Spirit to arise was instead filled by prayer to the saints. Note the similarity in this regard: the Spirit (and the Son) pray for us - Scripture reveals this - but it is nonsense for the Father to pray. He is the primary hearer of prayer. Instead of the prayer to the Spirit developing fully in the liturgy of the Church, we have full fledged prayer to the Son and then the saints. Sasse pointed out that much of the ancient world was wiped away before the important work could be finished dogmatically on the Spirit.

Past Elder said...

Certainly along with adapting local religion for a well-intended but misadvised catechesis (which we still do trying to "relate to the world"), no less an influence is the tendency in the RCC to theologise everything in sight. Usually Platonically, in the period from which these popular devotions come.

Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix are two such terms. They don't mean what one would think, but what they do mean at best clouds the whole issue.

Co-redemptrix goes back to Irenaeus' reference to her as the causa salutis, the cause of salvation, meaning her free consent to the words of Gabriel. It does not mean she is equally redeemer along with Christ.

Mediatrix similarly does not mean Mary is the mediator instead of Christ, but that having consented to give Christ human birth, as the mediator of Christ she is the mediator of all graces which come from Christ.

Properly understood, neither of these concepts denies Christ as the source of all grace and salvation. The problem is, when her assent to the message of Gabriel to her is theologised to death, the simple Gospel may be still in there someplace but gets rather hard to disentangle and so usually doesn't get disentangled.

Thus, as Luther lamented, does what should have been the clearest thing about the church become the most obscure.

And I don't think Mary, having indeed mediated all grace to Man having borne Christ, is too happy about it.

Diana seems to have passed more clearly to other non-Christian Italian religion, or to Nicevenn -- Abundia to the Germans.

Anonymous Lutheran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous Lutheran said...

The thing that bothers me about these revisions is that however useful they might have been at the time they were made, I think their effect on the modern hearer will be something different, and not so positive.

When I was growing up, I was exposed to varying levels of anti-Mary paranoia that were basically bizarre, and in some cases actually slanderous toward our Lord's mother.

When I read these, my first reaction was that it was more of the same: this practice of placing Jesus and Mary in opposition to each other, and using the belittlement of Mary as a means of glorifying Jesus. I had consciously back up and re-think it to realize that was probably not the intent at all.

I can't help thinking others would have a similar reaction, and possibly be unable or unwilling to see it any other way.

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon Lutheran,

As I recently wrote to a friend, you mustn't hear Urbanus' revisions of these antiphons as anti-Marian. He was anything but! In his wonderful little book on how to preach the Reformation, he exclaimed:

"O that blessed city of God, into which so many children, virgins, and martyrs have been received, where we will see for eternity apostles, prophets, patriarchs, and the righteous who have believed in Christ, from Adam up to the last Christian on earth! We will see choirs of angels, and the most blessed mother herself who is the noblest member of the mystical body!"

In early Lutheranism and for some time afterward, the feasts of the Annunciation, Visitation, (in some places the Dormition), the Nativity and the Purification continued among us to celebrate with joy the gift of the Virgin Mary and did not at all shy away from singing about the wonders God worked in and through her to save our fallen race.

So while the Lutheran liturgy completely nixed invoking the Virgin (or the other saints), it maintained a rather robust rejoicing in her and with her in the grace that God manifested through her for our salvation.

christl242 said...

I've never been persuaded by the whole Diana thingy.

Don't think so either, Pastor Weedon. Catholic Marian theology is firmly rooted in a real and historical person, Mary of Nazareth. The reverence for the Mother of God is very longstanding in the ancient churches of the Middle East.

The way that Marian piety developed in the Church of Rome is another matter. Suffice it to say that for Catholic Christianity she represented the "feminine" face of God and softened the sometimes "harsh" image that in the views of some a very masculine prophetic Christianity portrayed.


Past Elder said...

Something I learned as a kid, along with the four Marian hymns in Latin:

Lovely lady, dressed in blue,
Teach us how to pray.
God was once your little boy,
And you know the way.

Here's another one, gratis:

Every time I pass a church,
I stop and make a visit,
So that when I'm carried in,
The Lord won't say "Who is it?".

Past Elder said...

Don't miss the cover by Aaron Neville!

Rev. Robert Franck said...

This post reminded me of the window in the chapel at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wisconsin. Originally a convent, the chapel's window featured an impressive stained glass rendition of Mary on the throne of heaven. But when the LCMS bought the campus, the window was "emended" to be an image of Christ Himself on the throne.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

Rev. Franck, um, yeah. Images of Mary on a throne make it hard to put a best construction on the whole "Queen of Heaven" thing.... last I checked, queen mothers don't sit on thrones.

Pr. Weedon, as I mentioned, I was able to figure out pretty quickly that these weren't intended to be anti-Mary. But having said that, I would be concerned if people started promoting these as songs we might really want to sing, rather than just looking at them as historical curiosities. We have plenty of hymns (better ones, frankly) that offer this type of prayer and praise to Jesus, without that risk of confusion.