Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Annunciation of Our Lord: Biebl's Ave Maria

It seems odd that we would celebrate something so "Christmassy" during Lent.  It takes a little biological understanding to get this one.  Tradition holds this to be the day Christ was crucified, which in turn also holds that this is the day Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  This places the real-time celebration of the Annunciation of Our Lord nine months before the celebration of His birth at Christmas.

The Annunciation celebrates the Angle Gabriel's appearance to Mary, announcing that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit.  The Angel Gabriel tells Mary:

Hail, thou that art highly favoured,
the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.

This forms the basis for the beginning lines of the Ave Maria, which is drawn directly from the Latin translation of the Bible (Luke 1:28).

Áve [María], grátia pléna,
Dóminus técum.
Benedícta tu in muliéribus...

Hail [Mary], full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women...

The next line is also drawn directly from Scripture (Luke 1:42). They are the words Elizabeth proclaimed to Mary. benedictus fructus ventris tui [Iesus].
...and blessed is the fruit of your womb [Jesus].

Of course, Protestants don't have a problem reciting or singing words of Scripture. The issue is with praying to the saints.

That being said, here is a wonderful setting of Ave Maria in Latin by 20th century composer Franz Biebl. It includes parts of the narrative from Luke 1 and John 1, and is based on the Roman Catholic tradition of The Angelus.  It should be noted that the Seminary Chorus at Concordia, St. Louis, does an English version of Biebl's work which revises the lyrics so that they fully reflect the teaching of Scripture.

The inclusion of the "Ave Maria" and the "Angelus" here is not an endorsement of the "intersession of the saints."