This Thursday’s Music: The Assumption of Mary

This evening, we at SFDS get to represent the Catholic Church as we come together as a unified, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic parish family united in our praise of the triune God and in our honouring our heavenly Mother in her assumption into Heaven. This solemnity is so important — well, traditionally in a religious way but nowadays in a more civil, secular way — in several countries (such as Italy) that it signifies for the entire nation a period of vacation and relaxation throughout the rest of the summer months.

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The melody of this Marian hymn is undeniably known throughout the Roman Catholic world… if even just the refrain of “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria”. Named Lourdes, the hymn tune is associated with the apparitions of Mary at Lourdes in France. Today, we use a bilingual version of this beloved hymn as a testament to our Blessed Mother’s guidance of Her children on earth, singing in the third verse:

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth
And bless, dearest Lady, the land of our birth.
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!


Today we sing together that modern spiritual that we sing for Baptisms. As we are blessed with holy water, we sing: “I feel those gracious drops of mercy pour down on me” (or “Gotitas de misericordia, caigan sobre mí”). Great are the blessings of the LORD in our Mother.


Often associated with weddings — except for the recent trend of Psalm 128 taking its place —, we sing Psalm 45 almost as a coronation hymn to our Mother, who takes her place in heaven aside Her son, our LORD. Yes, “the Queen stands at Thy right hand arrayed in gold”. We may not sing this verse according to the Lectionary, but how familiar does verse 17 sound? “I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever”. Remember Mary’s words in the famous Magnificat of Luke 1:48: “For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed”.


How infinite and marvelous, how majestic and great is the God who called upon a humble Jewish woman and bestowed upon her the honour, the privilege, the commission to bring into this world the Word incarnate, our salvation, our King. In a passage from Luke 1 that precedes tonight’s Gospel reading, the Angel Gabriel says to the troubled Mary that the son, whom she shall conceive by the Holy Ghost, “shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the LORD God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-32). What a promise of glory divine came to us in that moment! Let us sing of that blessed assurance!


In today’s Gospel reading, Mary is greeted by Elizabeth with what has become the famous Catholic prayer: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb” (Luke 1:42). At this, Mary proclaims that her soul “doth magnify the LORD” and that her “spirit hath rejoiced in God [the] Saviour”. These words form what we call the Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat, which comes from the first word in Latin. We often forget on Marian feasts the importance of God’s work in her life, and without Him and His high favour of her, she would have never borne Jesus the Christ. It is in her surrender unto Him in Luke 1:38 (“Be it unto me according to thy word”) that her history and ours, too, begin. In the same spirit of humble service to the LORD, we sing together I Surrender All, a favourite of both our English- and Spanish-speaking congregations here at SFDS.


This Medieval prayer has a very special place in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, more of which you can read by clicking here. It comes to us from a period when Gregorian chant was becoming more melodic and less flowery — which was an honour reserved for the schola perched high above the congregation in the choir loft. It is easily attained by non-musicians and is a beloved staple at the conclusion of the Rosary. You may already know it in English by its adaptation: “Hail holy Queen, Mother of Mercy…” Anyone who lived through or is a product of the 90s knows it already in a hymn form… well, a highly spirited version of a hymn:


We conclude our bilingual celebration with a lively Marian hymn from Bernardo Velado and Juan J. Sosa, Pbro. Entitled Mother of the Church, this hymn lifts the prayer of the entire human race up to our Blessed Mary. It calls upon many of the titles bestowed upon our mother and captures a frantic energy that we do not usually associate with Marian feasts. Usually, we hear sweet ballads or majestic anthems, but today, we dance in the joy that our Mother brought into this world to save us. ¡Ruega por nosotros, Madre de la Iglesia (“Pray for us, O Mary, mother of all nations")!