The speech of angels is song

Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaim becomes tangibly present. And so, from that moment, the angels’ song of praise has never gone silent.

(Pope Benedict XVI, 2012)


Alma Redemptoris Mater

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
Porta manes, et stella maris, sucurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat populo: tu quae genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

O loving Mother of our Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Hasten to aid your fallen people who strive to rise once more.
You who brought forth your holy Creator, all creation wondering,
Yet remain ever Virgin, taking from Gabriel’s lips
that joyful “Hail!”: be merciful to us sinners.


About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Catholic Culture, Catholic Music, Catholic Prayers, Devotion, Hymns, Latin, Liturgy, Marian, Pope Benedict, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The speech of angels is song

  1. kathleen says:

    Lovely, GC, thank you. Indeed, how uplifting prayer is when set to beautiful music!

    I was at a wonderful concert the other night that culminated with the Via Crucis of Liszt (choir + piano) in which each of the fourteen stations was depicted on a large screen set above the stage. Very powerful!


  2. GC says:

    Dear kathleen, and thank you once again!

    I don’t know how many would have listened and thought to themselves about the emeritus Pope’s point? This does sound like angels (squillions of them!) singing/speaking/praising God and with their own accompanying angel trumpetists!

    It illustrates the former Pope’s idea admirably. The baroque interior of Fabriano Cathedral (in the Marche region of central Italy, on the Adriatic, and until 1860 part of the Papal States) even suggests the courts of heaven.

    I could go on and make some points about the nature of the music itself (do you notice it doesn’t seem to go anywhere?*), but better I stop before I go into orbit, like the maestro/conductor and some of the male performers also almost did.

    * It just sort of soars and falls just to soar again, again and again, one voice quickly in succession after another, but in the one spot, much like angels ceaselessly praising God would do.


  3. GC says:

    kathleen, I myself have sung the Liszt’s Via Crucis, but how long ago I refuse to divulge (but we can safely assume that we had only Kodak slides to use then)! It was done in a neo-Gothic Church in the manner you describe, but with organ.

    Youtube has a similar presentation, with lovely quaint old paintings of the Stations that will remind some of us of the churches of our former youth.


  4. kathleen says:

    Dear GC, I just love the images conjured up of “squillions” of holy angels “singing/speaking/praising God… Etc.” Truly mind-bogglingly beautiful! 🙂
    Yes, I wonder too how many would have seen the point our Pope Emeritus was trying to convey with those opening words of your post that you quote from him. It takes a sensitive soul to appreciate the ‘language’ of music, its spiritual quality, that of all Creation is uniquely man’s privilege to enjoy and to join with in prayer, raising his heart to soar heavenwards.

    Thank you for the YouTube of Liszt’s Via Crucis; it was lovely to listen to it once again.
    The sixth station, “Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus”, comes with the much-loved Lenten hymn, “O Sacred Head Surrounded”. Here’s another rendering:


  5. GC says:

    . . . music, its spiritual quality, that of all Creation is uniquely man’s privilege to enjoy and to join with in prayer, raising his heart to soar heavenwards.

    kathleen, did Aquinas steal your idea?: 😉

    A hymn is the praise of God with song; a song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice.

    Well, the minds of angels are always “dwelling on eternal things”, eternal things of the highest order. Why wouldn’t they sing then?

    kathleen, the Liszt version of the hymn is all rather good too. (See below, I’ve extracted it.)

    You know, of course, the hymn is completely medieval Catholic in origin? It’s originally from a set of Latin devotions for each day in Holy Week.


  6. kathleen says:

    “kathleen, did Aquinas steal your idea?

    😆 I must have “stolen” the idea from the great Doctor Angelicus without realising it… Not a bad thing to do from such an eminence!

    Yes, I had heard that lovely hymn was “medieval Catholic in origin”, and there have been many settings and adaptions of it.
    How clever you are to have ‘isolated’ that station from the rest of in your clip above ^.
    You’re much more techno-savvy than me… but then so is just about anybody! 😉


  7. GC says:

    Not a bad thing to do from such an eminence!

    You know what they say about great minds, kathleen.

    It’s an interesting sort of question – I think, anyway. Angels by definition are given errands and duties by God. What do they sound like to men? How did Gabriel sound to the girl in Nazareth? The angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem? Well, now we have some idea.

    How clever you are to have ‘isolated’ that station from the rest of in your clip above

    Elementary, my dear kathleen. 😀

    Just fill in this form and copy and paste the result after you click “get the code” at the end of the form.

    (In the selection box at the top of the form , select “get the link”.)


  8. kathleen says:

    A tardy big ‘thank you’ for the instructions above, GC. Haven’t tried it out yet, but it appears to be easier than I thought. 🙂

    Another favourite Lenten hymn on this holy eve of Palm Sunday, is this one:


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