Singing to Mary

Daily mass attendees will have noticed that Wednesdays (at least in the Philippines) always seem more crowded than all other days. This day has been set apart for the praying of the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help; hundreds of Filipinos consider themselves as devotees to our Lady under this title. After mass, droves stay behind for an additional 10-15 minutes to kneel before Mary’s miraculous picture, praying, begging, for her to pray with them and for them.

We sinners call to you; Loving Mother, help us.

In the parish I grew up in, for some reason or other, they omit the songs that are interjected between the prayers within the novena. We sing “Immaculate Mother,” recite all parts of the novena booklet, but sing nothing else until we end with “Hail Mary.” While shortening the prayer in the interest of time, or even in lessening the number of times one has to kneel-stand-kneel-stand is valid, I’m afraid the congregation is ultimately missing out on the richness of the novena.

While the prayers aptly take us from repentance, humble submission, supplication and thanksgiving, the songs not only give us a moment to catch our breath from reciting 80 words per minute, but support and emphasize the very Truth and basis for our prayer. I must say I’m quite amazed at how these simple songs contain such depth and understanding of faith and theology (not to mention beautiful poetry).

Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning

Mary Immaculate, star of the morning,
chosen before the creation began,
destined to bring through the light of your dawning
conquest of Satan, and rescue to Man.

Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying,
look to this earth where your footsteps have trod!
Stretch our your arms to us, living and dying,
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.

We sinners honor your sinless perfection.
Fallen and weak, for God’s mercy we plead.
Grant us the shield of your mighty protection;
Measure your aid by the depth of our need.

Back in high school, I helped write our class’ entry for our school’s annual Marian Songfest. A friend who got to listen to all the entries posited that our song probably won (uh-huh, still got the trophy to prove it!) because compared to the other songs, ours was the only one that never lost sight of who Mary is in light of who Jesus is. While others sang of how Mary was “the light of [their lives],” and their inspiration, we sang about our struggle to return to God, weighed down by shame and guilt, and Mary, sweetly telling us as if in a lullaby, “Hwag matakot bumalik sa Kanya, nandito ako, aakayin kita.” (Do not be afraid of going back to Him; I’m here to hold your hand.)

Don’t get me wrong–Mary does bring light to our lives, and inspires us to embrace obedience and purity as she did. But I believe the most beautiful songs about her are those that express the uniqueness of her role as Mother to us and Mother to Christ, bringing together sinner and Savior, both unable to refuse her any request.

We thank you, Lord, for giving us your own Mother, to be our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Mother of Christ

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
what shall I ask of thee?
I do not sigh for the wealth of earth,
for the joys that fade and flee, but
Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
this do I long to see:
the bliss untold which your arms enfold,
the treasure upon your knee.

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
I toss on a stormy sea.
Oh, lift your child as a beacon light
to the port where I fain would be!
Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
this do I ask of thee:
when the voyage is over,
oh, stand on the shore
and show Him at last to me!

 

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