Sunday, 7 April 2013

Latin prayer of the week: Regina Caeli

Procession of St Gregory,
Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, folio72v

The Marian antiphon Regina Caeli is one of the group of 'hymns' (usually called antiphons) that end Compline.  This particular one is used in Eastertide (and also traditionally replaces the Angelus during this period), so its a good time to take a look at it!

The history

The origins of this antiphon are obscure.

Legend has it that St Gregory the Great heard angels chanting the first three lines one Easter morning in Rome, while following barefoot in a great religious procession of the icon of the Virgin painted by Luke the Evangelist during an outbreak of the plague.  He was inspired to add the fourth line, whereupon an angel appeared in a bright light, wielding a sword, and put paid to the pestilence from that moment.

But the earliest it can be traced in manuscript form is around 1170, and so most modern scholars think it probably dates from between the 9th and 11th centuries.  Perhaps they just don't like the idea of its miraculous origins?

The text

The Compendium of the Catechism gives the Latin as follows:

Regína cæli lætáre, allelúia.
Quia quem meruísti portáre, allelúia.
Resurréxit, sicut dixit, allelúia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, allelúia.

Gaude et lætáre, Virgo María, allelúia.
Quia surréxit Dóminus vere, allelúia.


Deus, qui per resurrectiónem Fílii tui Dómini nostri Iesu Christi mundum lætificáre dignátus es, præsta, quæsumus, ut per eius Genetrícem Vírginem Maríam perpétuæ capiámus gáudia vitæ.
Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

You can hear it read out nice and slowly for learning purposes here.

It then gives two translations, a US and a UK version:


Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia!
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia!
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!


Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.


Let us pray;

O God, who through the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, did vouchsafe to give joy to the world; grant, we beseech you, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is a word by word literal translation of the antiphon itself:

Regína (Queen) cæli (of heaven) lætáre (rejoice), allelúia.
Quia (because/for) quem (whom) meruísti (you merited/were worthy) portáre (to carry), allelúia.
Resurréxit (he has risen), sicut (as) dixit (he said), allelúia.
Ora (pray) pro (for) nobis (us) Deum (to God), allelúia.

And do listen to the chant versions.

First the simple version:

And here is the solemn (more elaborate) version:

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