Music for Advent 4 — Sunday, December 18, 2022

Ave Maria – Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611)

The text of the Ave Maria, this Sunday’s communion motet in church, and part of which forms the Offertory antiphon for this day, is by far the best known of the Marian prayers. It is historically divided into three parts. The first portion consists of the opening salutation of the angel Gabriel with which he greeted Mary on the day of the Annunciation (Luke 1:28). The second part is the divinely inspired greeting of St. Elizabeth uttered when the pregnant Mary visits her:

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:41b-42)

The third and final portion, the addition of the holy name and the final petition for intercession, first appeared c. 1440 with Bernadine of Sienna and was fixed in its present form by Pope Pius V in the Breviary of 1568.

Many composers have set this text. This Sunday’s setting is by Tomás Luis de Victoria, a Spanish composer who ranks with Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso among the greatest composers of the 16th century.

Hail Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with thee,

blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Gerald Harder