“It is not by isolated, extraordinary acts that we show love.” St. Therese of Lisieux says, “Rather, frequent, small acts of love are the true substance of any real charity”: for friend, for spouse, for God. In fact, grand acts of love are impossible if they are not preceded and nourished by the building blocks of frequent, daily renewals of devotion.
It is only fitting, then, in our devotion to the Queen of Heaven—the shortest, easiest, and surest way to her Son—that we stalwartly commit ourselves to small renewals of our love for her. Practices such as saying a daily Rosary, reciting the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, “The Angelus,” or “Regina Coeli,” praying the Litany of Loreto, and many other devotions serve as brilliant examples of how to in small ways tell our Queen, “I love you.” One traditional and beautiful way we can continue to foster love for Our Lady is through the recitation or singing of the four seasonal Marian antiphons.
Although normally prayed after Night Prayer, these short hymns to the Mother of God can also make a great thanksgiving after Holy Mass, a subject for meditation, or even something to help “set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2) while walking around campus. Dating back to around the 12th century, these hymns are usually sung in Latin but can also be prayed in English. What is most important, however, is not how we pray with these time-honored antiphons, but how we let them draw us into the prayer of Holy Mother Church, bringing us closer to Mary, which is to say, closer to Christ.
1. Salve Regina: Most likely the best known of the Marian Antiphons, the “Salve Regina” is prayed after Pentecost until the first Sunday of Advent. Held in wide esteem, it is prayed at the conclusion of every rosary and served as the outline for St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work The Glories of Mary. It is also prayed at the end of Extraordinary Form Low Masses.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
2. Alma Redemptoris Mater: Prayed from the First Sunday of Advent until February 2, the feast of the Purification or “Candlemas.” In the liturgical calendar before 1969 (and still today in the Extraordinary Form) this would cover the entirety of the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again,
To the wonderment of nature, you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before,
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.
3. Ave Regina Caelorum: This antiphon is prayed after the feast of the Purification until Holy Thursday. Note that from Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil, there is no Marian antiphon; during these sacred days, no antiphon is sung. This not only draws our attention to the fact that something is special about these days, but also heightens our anticipation for the Easter Vigil, where once again “the season of singing has come!” (Song of Songs 2:12).
Hail, O Queen of Heaven.
Hail, O Lady of Angels
Hail! thou root, hail! thou gate
From whom unto the world, a light has arisen:
Rejoice, O glorious Virgin,
Lovely beyond all others,
Farewell, most beautiful maiden,
And pray for us to Christ.
4. Regina Coeli: After the Salve Regina, the Regina Coeli is likely the second most known antiphon. It is prayed from the Easter Vigil through the feast of Pentecost. This prayer also replaces “The Angelus”—which is traditionally prayed at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. (see article “Prayer: The Angelus” by David O’Neill)—during the season of Easter with an additional collect at the end.
Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia!
For He Whom you did merit to bear, alleluia!
Has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!