“Ave Dei Patris Filia”: Magnificent polyphonic hymn to the Virgin Mary

From Hierodeacon Herman, a friend of mine who is the Chapel Music Director at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (on the Revised Julian/”New” Calendar). Earlier this week the Orthodox Arts Journal interviews Fr. Hierodeacon Herman about his ongoing Choral Advent Calendar Facebook ministry here:

Here is another hymn for the Mother of God, as keep the afterfeast of her Entrance into the Temple. John Taverner (c. 1490–1545; not to be confused with the modern composer John Tavener) composed some of the sublime polyphonic music of the English renaissance. Though later in life he became a firm adherent of the Protestant reformation and regretted composing “Popish ditties,” in which category he certainly would have included today‘s selection, we can be grateful such music from his Catholic period has survived.

The text of this motet is long but rich, and befitting the exalted purity and beauty of the Holy Virgin and Theotokos. Taverner’s composition, especially as performed here by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, is dazzling in its delicacy, majesty, and profundity – increasingly so, as the piece progresses.

Latin: (English translation below)

Ave Dei patris filia nobilissima,
Dei filii mater dignissima,
Dei Spiritus sponsa venustissima,
Dei unius et trini ancilla subiectissima.

Ave summae aeternitatis filia clementissima,
summae veritatis mater piissima,
summae bonitatis sponsa benignissima,
summae trinitatis ancillia mitissima.

Ave aeternae caritatis desideratissima filia,
aeternae sapientiae mater gratissima,
aeternae spirationis sponsa sacratissima,
aeternae maiestatis ancilla sincerissima.

Ave Jesu tui filii dulcis filia,
Christi Dei tui mater alma,
sponsa sine ulla macula,
deitatis ancilla sessioni proxima.

Ave Domini filia singulariter generosa,
Domini mater singulariter gloriosa,
Domini sponsa singulariter speciosa,
Domini ancilla singulariter obsequiosa.

Ave plena gratia solis regina,
misericordiae mater, meritis praeclara,
mundi domina, a patriarchis praesignata,
imperatrix inferni, a profetis praeconizata.

Ave virgo facta
ut sol praeelecta,
mater intacta,
sicut luna perpulcra,
salve parens inclita,
enixa puerpera,
stella maris praefulgida,
felix caeli porta:
esto nobis via recta
ad aeterna gaudia,
ubi pax est et gloria.

O gloriosissima semper virgo Maria!
Amen.

ENGLISH translation:

Hail, most noble daughter of God the Father,
most worthy mater of the Son of God,
most graceful bride of God’s Spirit,
closest servant of God one and three.

Hail, most clement daughter of the highest Eternity,
most blessed mother of the highest Truth,
most benign bride of the highest Kindness,
meekest servant of the highest Trinity.

Hail, most beloved daughter of everlasting Charity,
most thankful mother of everlasting Wisdom,
most sacred bride of everlasting Inspiration,
sincerest servant of everlasting Majesty.

Hail, sweet daughter of thy Son, Jesus,
bountiful mother of Christ thy God,
bride without the slightest blemish,
handmaid of the coming of the Lord.

Hail, most singularly generous daughter of the Lord,
most singularly glorious mother of the Lord,
most singularly beautiful bride of the Lord,
most singularly obedient handmaid of the Lord.

Hail, queen of the sun, full of grace,
mother of mercy, famous by thy merits,
mistress of the world, preordained by the patriarchs,
empress of hades, foretold by the prophets.

Hail, virgin made
as unique as the sun,
mother unblemished,
as beautiful as the moon,
hail, famous begetter,
diligent mother,
splendid star of the sea,
auspicious gate of Heaven:
be for us a straight path
to eternal joy,
where peace and glory are.

O most glorious and ever-virgin Mary!
Amen.

Hierodeacon Herman was appointed the Chapel Music Director at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in late April of 2010. His childhood and youth were spent immersed in the Anglo-Catholic liturgical and musical traditions, which led him to the study of organ and choral music at Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, New Jersey, where, in 1999, he was received into the Orthodox Church.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Fr. Herman enrolled at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, where he graduated with an M.Div. in 2005. The following two years he spent as the choir director and instructor in Liturgical Music and Liturgical Theology at St. Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. In 2007 Fr. Herman became a novice at the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco, in Manton, California. A year later he was tonsured a Rassophore-monk and ordained to the Holy Diaconate.

In the summer of 2009 Fr. Herman was asked by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, former primate of the Orthodox Church in America, to fulfill various obediences on the East Coast. He was transferred to St. Vladimir’s Seminary and began part time studies there in the M.Th. program. In addition, he is an editor of liturgical publications for St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, has assisted in the music program at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and, at St. Vladimir’s, has served as the faculty liaison for St. Ambrose Society, the seminary’s student-led Pro-Life interest group.

Father Herman took monastic vows and was tonsured to the Lesser Schema on September 24th, 2011, at Three Hierarchs’ Chapel at the Seminary. He is a member of the Brotherhood of St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

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