Thursday, July 13, 2023

A New Latin Hymn for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

A new Latin hymn for liturgical use was commissioned earlier this year by the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and composed by Latinist Sean Pilcher. The hymn’s organ accompaniment was originally written by the prolific French organist and improviser Pierre Cochereau (1924-84), who worked as the titular organist of Notre-Dame de Paris for three decades. Its meter is drawn from a twelfth-century sequence Jerusalem et Sion Filiae, which was sung on the feast of the Dedication of a Church in the Use of Paris. This sequence was written by by the cathedral’s famous precentor, Adam of Saint-Victor (1080 ca. – 1146), whose liturgical compositions were well-known across Europe.

The interior of the main church at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, with a reproduction of the tilma in the apse over the main altar. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Pgnielsen79, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Shrine wanted a Latin hymn which could be sung to Cochereau’s organ masterpiece, but which focused on Our Lady’s patronage of the Shrine and highlighted elements from the Guadalupe story. The metre is decidedly mediaeval, and resembles that of the original Victorine repertoire of the twelfth century, while incorporating images from the greater, more ancient Marian hymnody of the Roman rite.

Since the hymn’s debut at an organ recital given by the shrine’s Director of Sacred Music and organist, Scott Turkington, it has been used liturgically for Pontifical Masses and religious professions held there.

The hymn, followed by a translation and some brief commentary by the author, to whom we are very grateful for sharing it with us.

Ad Virginem Guadalupanam A literal English translation
Beato e caelo succurrere
Parvulum Alma in itinere
Ioannes, inquit, noli timere:
Ave Maria!
From the blessed heavens
the Sweet Mother comes
to aid her little one on the way.
‘John,’ she said, ‘fear not!’
Ave Maria!
Verbum Sapientiae mundana
Tunc ignotum in terra pagana
Vincit cum ancilla christiana,
Ave Maria!
The Word of Wisdom, then
unknown, in that pagan land,
comes to conquer worldliness
with His Christian handmaid
Ave Maria!
Regina sui petit honori,
Solemne signum impugnatori
Sacrum et genti et novo orbi,
Ave Maria!
The Queen bids for her honour
a solemn sign, set against
the Adversary, sacred to
the people and the New World
Ave Maria!
Kaloni pallium fidelibus
A Dei manu incredentibus,
Pictum rosis, luna sub pedibus,
Ave Maria!
She gives a tilma to her little
minister for the faithful,
painted by the hand of God
for unbelievers, with roses,
and the moon beneath her feet.
Ave Maria!
Eburneam turrem advolamus
Subter caeruleo superamus,
Speculo Iustitiae collaudemus:
Ave Maria!
We fly to the Tower of Ivory,
under her caerulean veil we prevail,
let us say to the Mirror of Justice:
Ave Maria!

The first letters of each stanza form an acrostic to honor the patron of both the shrine and the hymn, His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal BVRKE; inclusion of the patron in some way into a work is of course a long-standing tradition in sacred art. The Latin word “pallium – cover, cloak” is used in other places in the Roman liturgy to describe the miraculous tilma. “Calo” is a very old loanword from Greek, possibly even Punic, meaning a low-ranking servant or an aide-de-camp, a fitting title for St Juan Diego, who lived his remaining years as a hermit in quiet, humble service to Our Lady. It is here spelled with a K, a device often employed by medieval writers to fit an acrostic when required, since the letter is not normally used in Latin. “Speculum Justitiae – Mirror of Justice” is the title under which canonists invoke Our Lady, and is used here as a tribute to the important contributions to canon law made by the shrine’s founder, as well as the annual conference held there for canonists.

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