Saturday, January 3, 2015

Marian Antiphons and Night Prayer

Our Lady of Puerto Rico, Cathedrdal San Juan Bautista
 At the conclusion of Night Prayer (a.k.a. Compline) we say or sing a Marian antiphon (Some prefer to call them marian anthems since they are not antiphons in the same sense as the antiphons that surround our psalms in the  breviary). Your breviary gives you a page of choices for this, ranging from a basic Hail Mary, to the familiar (for those who say the rosary) Hail Holy Queen, to a number of other traditional choices:, Regina Caeli, Alma Redemptoris Mater, and others, in both Latin  and English.

Think of it as your final, "Goodnight, Mom! You're the greatest! Love you." while She is tucking  you in for the night.

Although our breviary seems to offer us a menu of choices for this final marian prayer, it's also good to know that there is a traditional rubric for using the one that best fits with  the liturgical season.

From Advent through the Christmas season, the traditional marian prayer is the Alma Redemptoris Mater: "Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,, etc."

For ordinary time--both the little patch of it that falls between Christmastide and lent, as well as the big patch between Pentecost and the start of advent, use the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) Alternatively, continue with the Alma Redemptoris Mater until February 2nd, which in the traditional liturgy was the end of the extended Christmas season.

During lent, switch to the Ave Regina Caelorum: "Hail, O Mary Queen of heaven, Queen of all the saints and angels, root of Jesse, heaven's portal, etc." Although now that I look it up, I see that this one  only appears in Latin in the Christian Prayer breviary.  No problem--just pray it in Latin.

For the Easter Season, we use the lovely Regina Caeli: "Queen of Heaven, Rejoice, Alleluia!" Those of you who pray the noon Angelus probably know that this prayer is used in its stead during the Easter season.

Complete Latin and English  translations of these four traditional marian antiphons, plus a bit of history on each one, can be found at this link to the Adoremus website.

For many years my husband and I have been chanting these antiphons using the "Simple Tones" version. If you would like to learn them, here is a page from the Chantblog with an audio file of the Alma Redemptoris Mater. On the bottom of that page you will find links for audio of the other ones as well.

It is true that the Liturgy of the Hours allows us to use any Marian antiphon  we like  after Night Prayer.  But to choose them in accordance with the liturgical  season is to participate in a beautiful and ancient custom. And not just ancient! This choice of marian antiphons, and these chant settings, are still used in many places, including monasteries, seminaries, and at the Vatican. So if you are looking for a New Year's resolution to enhance your practice of the Liturgy of the Hours, this might be the place to start. 


  1. Excellent post! Learned something new today.

  2. Hello Daria, In my quest to have a better understanding of the Divine Office and the Psalms, I came across this link which I would like to share with you and the readers of this blog … perhaps you know it ...
    "The Commentaries of John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the Psalms and Canticles of Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) from the Liturgy of the Hours"

    Personally its been a huge help ...

    1. Meant to reply to this sooner. thanks for the link. I have these iln print editions, but since they have gone out of print an online source is valuable.

  3. Daria, as an alternative I use the Ave Regina Caelorum in the first part of Ordinary Time (from the feast of the Presentation, Feb 2) and continue it throughout Lent... If I'm reading it right, it looks like the link you give to chanting the simple tones confirms my choice: this way I can use all four "antiphons" in sequence, spaced semi-evenly throughout the year, with no "repeats". Hope I'm not too far off on this...and thanks again for your awesome blog! You are providing a much-needed and appreciated service to us!

  4. I do wish they had kept the prayers in the traditional Breviary that came after the Marian Antiphon

    1. Technically, Rich, Compline ends with the Antiphon. One could easily add those prayers right afterwards. Probably not a bad idea... :)