Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above, O Maria!
Hail, Mother of mercy and of love, O Maria!
Nearly every Catholic in the English-speaking world can sing at least a verse or two of Hail, Holy Queen from memory. The beloved hymn has become a staple in the Marian repertoire of parishes across the globe and will likely remain so for years to come. Yet, before the (relatively) modern hymn paraphrase came the beautiful 11th century prayer Salve, Regina and the subsequent Gregorian Chant settings composed in honor of our Blessed Mother.
The Salve, Regina is one of four seasonal Marian Antiphons that are chanted in the Divine Office at the end of Compline, or “Night Prayer,” which is prayed at the end of the day before bed. The Salve, Regina is possibly the best known of the four because the Church assigns it to Ordinary Time after Pentecost, making it the most frequently sung. (The others are Alma redemptoris Mater, sung during Advent/Christmas; Ave, Regina caelorum, sung after Christmas until Easter; and Regina caeli, sung during Easter.) Outside of the Divine Office, the hymn is traditionally sung at the funeral of a Catholic Priest. The text of the Salve, Regina is particularly familiar, perhaps more so in English as “Hail, Holy Queen”, as it concludes the recitation of the Rosary.
In addition to singing the Marian Antiphons at the end of Compline, it is also common for them to make an appearance within Mass during their assigned season. Therefore, during the month of October, we have been singing the simple tone Salve, Regina after communion at all Masses, and we will continue to do so through the end of the month. Having heard it for two weeks already, it is likely that you have begun to recognize the melody, even if it is not entirely familiar just yet. I invite you to listen carefully in prayer as the cantor or choir chants this beautiful hymn and, if you like, to participate. The hymn may be found in chant notation (square notes) in the Pew Missal at #217. Even if you are not ready to participate, perhaps simply opening the hymnal and following the melody as it soars through our beautiful church will help you to pray with the musicians and begin to recognize the chant more readily.
Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, 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 towards us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.