Choral Evensong for St. Mary the Virgin

The Cathedral will celebrate the ligurgical Feast of St. Mary the Virgin (August 15) on the following Sunday, August 19, with a special Choral Evensong starting at 5:30 pm. This lovely service will feature the Cathedral’s Men’s Schola, Todd Beckham director and organist, with a setting largely based on traditional choral Plainchant. The featured anthem will be “Sancta Maria” by John Dunstable. Admission is free (calabash offering).

Mary, the mother of Christ, has been celebrated since the earliest days of the Christian church. The Gospel of Luke contains a “Song of Praise” that was sung by Mary when her cousin Elizabeth recognized her as the mother of the Lord (Luke 1:43). Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist when her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, came to see her:

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy’” —Luke 1:41-44.

“Mary’s Song of Praise” is also called “The Magnificat,” because its opening line in Latin is: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The Magnificat is a standard feature in all Evensong services. The text is:

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:

for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Because He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His name.

And His mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.

He hath shewed might with His arm:

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat,

and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel:

As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.