Catholic Prayer: Readings and Hymns for the Immaculate Conception
Here are some ideas for readings and text of hymns to learn to sing for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Some of the prophetic lessons of Isaias could also be read, along with Gertrude von le Fort's poem to Our Lady of Advent, from Hymns to the Church. The singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater, or the beautiful Tota Pulchra Es of Dom Pothierwould be a suitable conclusion for the little ceremony.
Several remarks may be added concerning the hymns which we teach children in honor of Our Lady. Much bad taste, musical and theological, has entered into the praises of Our Lady. It would indeed be wise always to teach children only the best, and that which is always truthful and in accord with reality. Would we dare to compare "Macula non est in te," "Mother Dear, O Pray for Me," "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother," or "Bring Flowers of the Rarest," with the Ave, Maris Stella (sung in English, perhaps; but you will find that the children easily come to love and understand the Latin); the Ave Maria, as edited by Solesmes; the sequence Inviolata; the hymn Maria Mater Gratiae, or the Tota Pulchra Es of Dom Pothier?
Mother Church recommends the Ave Maris Stella, which is the vesper hymn of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Compare the theology of this hymn with the sentimental ballads which are customarily taught to children in honor of their heavenly Mother and Mediatrix:
Ave, Star of ocean, Child divine who bearest, Mother, ever Virgin, Heaven's portal fairest.
Taking that sweet Ave Erst by Gabriel spoken, Eva's name reversing, Be of peace the token.
Break the sinner's fetters, Light to blind restoring, All our ills dispelling, Every boon imploring.
Show thyself a mother In thy supplication, He will hear who chose thee At His Incarnation.
Maid all maids excelling, Passing meek and lowly, Win for sinners pardon, Make us chaste and holy.
As we onward journey Aid our weak endeavor, Till we gaze on Jesus And rejoice forever.
Father, Son, and Spirit, Three in One confessing, Give we equal glory Equal praise and blessing.
— Ethelstan Riley translation
Should we desire other hymns in honor of the Immaculate Conception, we may choose such hymns and carols as "A Child Is Born in Bethlehem," or the superb German Advent carol "Behold, a Branch Is Growing." The latter, a fifteenth-century carol harmonized by Praetorius, is given below:
Behold a branch is growing Of loveliest form and grace. As prophets sung, foreknowing; It springs from Jesse's race.Prayer Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955
And bears one little flower. In midst of coldest winter, At deepest midnight hour. Isaiah hath foretold it In words of promise sure, And Mary's arms enfold it, A Virgin meek and pure.
Through God's eternal will, This Child to her is given At midnight calm and still.