Cleansing Fire

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Marian Antiphons

July 19th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

I have always enjoyed having “The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary” as part of my private devotions. What really sets it apart as something beautiful and unique from other “little hours,” the Breviary, etc., is that the antiphons for each of the psalms, hymns, readings, and canticles reflect really beautiful imagery of what the Church teaches about Mary, and which She has professed since her earliest days. Over the coming days and weeks, I’d like to take a took at these antiphons, just to expose you to something you may or may not have ever experienced.

"Arise, my beloved, and come."

A large amount of these antiphons come from the Song of Solomon, considered to be the most overtly sexual of all the books of the Bible. When I first started reading these verses about “the king introducing me unto his bedchamber,” and being “black but beautiful,” I was a little confused. Why does the Church use such explicit imagery in association with the pinnacle of purity, that is, the Blessed Virgin? After some reading and “lectio divina,” I realized that it’s not talking about the love of a king and his maidens, but the love of God for His Church, and she who bore the Church’s divine spouse, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The passion of these verses fits perfectly with someone who, in our lingo, “won’t let the honeymoon die.” God’s love for the Church, as shown by His love for the BVM, is so great that our human experiences of ecstasy, either spiritual or physical, are made to look pathetic and shallow in comparison to His. With this in mind, let’s look at the first antiphon I’ve chosen for our contemplation, “Iam hiems.”

Below are the Latin words and the English translation.

“Iam hiems transiit, imber abiit et recessit. Surge amica mea et veni.”
“The winter has passed, the rain is over and gone. Arise, my beloved, and come.”

When taken as a Marian antiphon, we should ask ourselves, “why is this being associated with Mary?” I have seen a few answers given to this question, the best being, in my opinion, the following:

“God, seeing the sad state of His creation, reaches down to it and deigns Mary the worthy mother of His Incarnate Word. He tells his beloved to rise, for now the winter of sin and death is passed, and the springtime of redemption descends for the salvation of the world.”

The thing I enjoy most about the Marian antiphons I’ll be sharing with you is the beautiful metaphors scattered throughout them. They may consist of only a few words, a sentence or two at most, but they are beautiful in their simplicity. But mind you, this is a simplicity which only appears to be simple – it is a humble facade of the most profound of mysteries, those dealing to our salvation and the redemption of the entirety of humanity.

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One Response to “Marian Antiphons”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Thank you including one of favorite Annunciation paintings by the wonderful American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner.


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