31 May 2023

Mediatrix of All Graces: the importance of being ecumenical

If you look in your ancient but admirable English Missal, you can find our Lady as Mediatrix of all Graces in the Appendix of Masses Proper to England and Wales. This is because in Durham, Northumberland, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Herefordshire, and all Wales, this feast was on the Calendars of the corresponding RC dioceses. The date is May 31, except that in later editions of the English Missal, printed after the institution in 1955 by Pius XII of the feast of the BVM, Queen, on May 31, the older feast of our Lady, Mediatrix, had to be shuffled onto June 1. (The Mass can, of course, be said as a votive any day when votives are permitted.)

What, before Pius XII, happened when a Double of the First Class occurred on a Wednesday etc. of the Pentecost Octave? Did we have to transfer it?

Happily, one of the Office Hymns of this beautiful Feast appears in the Liturgia Horarum. In the Common of the BVM, it is the hymn at First Evensong; and it may be used at the Office of Readings as an alternative to Quem terra pontus aethera. Its first line is Maria quae mortalium.

Sadly, for those who say the Office in English, it is not available; it is one of the many hymns for which ICEL decided not to bother to commission English translations. (Whereabouts did Sacrosanctum Concilium mandate this wholesale disparagement of the treasures of Christian Latin Hymnography?) It may be found, with an English version, in versions of the Monastic Diurnal for the Feast of our Blessed Mother of Perpetual Succour. Its (nineteenth century) author is not known.

The Mass and Office for our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces were authorised in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV, and among the countries for which they were authorised was Belgium. The Feast had been requested by that dear friend and  supporter of ecumenical dialogue with the Anglican Patrimony, Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines, him of the 'Malines Conversations'. Perhaps we ought to make Mercier and Malines more prominent in our recollections of the pre-history of the Ordinartiate!

I have a suspicion that Papa Pacelli, not one of my heroes, in 1955 deliberately put Maria Regina on May 31 because his own Marian preoccupations had other priorities which rather overshadowed her title as Universal Mediatrix. Did he wish to  discourage the growing enthusiasm among dioceses and countries to petition for this feast? But Wales and the ancient See of Hexham had got in first!

So the whole Latin Church has now ended up with either Maria Regina (EF) or the Visitation (OF) today, the last day of the Marymonth. I feel the Pius XII (EF) propers are a trifle unsophisticated; they emphasise the old literary topoi of Royalty. No harm, I suppose, in that ... 

... But the older liturgical understanding of Mary's glorification, in both West and East and Further East, connected it with her role as Mediatrix for all the Church. The only element in the Pius XII office which directly relates to this theme is lectio ix, where S Bonaventure proclaims Mary as the New Esther and as the aquaeductus through which the Grace of God comes to us.

On the other hand, the Benedict XV propers very neatly and ecumenically brought the Semitic, Hellenic, and Latin traditions of Christianity together, especially in the Second Nocturn (a lection each from S Ephraim, S Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople, and S Bernard). And their use of Typology is richly suggestive; very much in line with the Mariological perspectives which S John Henry Newman came to discern in his last weeks as an Anglican.

S Gregory Palamas, I believe, would have agreed with me!


frjustin said...

An English version of "Maria, quæ mortalium" may be found at I Vespers of the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, No. 267 in "Hymnal for the Hours", edited by Fr Samuel F. Webber, O.S.B. The customary Gregorian melody in Mode II is also provided with this hymn. For those who may not have access to this book, the translation is as follows:

1. O Mary, Mother of us all,
With love you hear your children call,
With confidence to you we pray,
Be ever with us night and day.

2. Be with us at the hour of need
Lest we do wrong in word and deed;
If sin should bind us, break our chains,
From Satan snatch ill-gotten gains.

3. Assist us when the world's bright show
Entices us with its bright glow;
On things eternal keep our gaze
Lest we forsake true virtue's ways.

4. The day our strength begins to fail,
Assist poor sinners, weak and frail,
And when our day fades into night,
Bring us in peace to heaven's light.

5. All glory to the Father be,
And to your Son eternally,
Who with the Spirit took delight
In clothing you with grace so bright. Amen.

Note that the Hymn is addressed to Mary, and hence the doxology in verse 5 begins "All glory to the Father be, And to your Son eternally".

Moritz Gruber said...

The whole world? No.

In the German Novus Ordo, today is "Wednesday of the 8th Week of Ordinary Time". The date for the visitation was traditional enough to stay, by means of "local calendar", on July 2 (as did St. Matthias's feast on February 24), but the Queenship was moved to Assumption Octave, which leaves, with Pentecost Wednesday suppressed as elsewhere, no feast at all.

frjustin said...

Another translation was done by a Carmelite nun of Long Beach, California:

O Mary, you are swift to hear
Whoever calls on you in pray'r
And lovingly you answer all:
Keep us forever in your care.

Be near us if the fearful bonds
Of sin's allurements snare us here.
Break quickly the entangling chains
And free our hearts of guilt and fear.

Come to our aid if worldly dreams
Dazzle our sight, our wills betray,
Let not our minds, forgetting God,
From saving pathways turn away.

Come with your aid when troubles come,
Misfortunes threaten, dangers near,
Bring peace to all our earthly days
Until eternal day is here.

To us your children ever be
A stronghold at that final hour
That with your aid we may attain
The joys of heaven, by your power.

To Father, Son and Spirit be
All glory, honour, praises given
Who clothed you with his wondrous grace
And crowned you Queen of earth and heaven.

— Maria, quæ mortalium: translated by Sr Mary Paula OCD of Long Beach, California

El Codo said...

Another wonderful article, Father, pointing to Mary as the locus of unity among Christians but also with believers from other systems like Judaism and Islam.