Truth in the Heart (Grade 2) – Regina Caeli

♪ ♪ Sister: Hello! Welcome to Truth in the Heart! My name is Sr. Mary Joseph, and I am a religious in the community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am here to teach you about the four seasonal antiphons or hymns written in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today we are going to focus on the antiphon traditionally sung throughout the victorious season of Easter. This antiphon is called the “Regina Caeli”, which translates in English to mean “Queen of Heaven.” In the last two lessons, I have discussed the purpose of an antiphon in the Divine Office. I have also discussed the liturgical seasons and what antiphons are sung to Our Lady during each of the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time. Finally, in the last two lessons, I have gone into detail about the least known antiphons, called “Alma Redemptoris Mater” and the “Ave Regina Caelorum”. Now we are going to learn about the third antiphon, which is prayed only during the season of Easter. This antiphon is called the “Regina Caeli”, which is sung as a hymn, and recited also as a prayer. The name of the antiphon translates to mean “Queen of Heaven”. The word “regina” is Latin for “queen,” and the word “caeli” is Latin for “of heaven.” As you may already know, Easter is a time of rejoicing and celebrating the great event of Christ’s resurrection. This is the time when He conquered death and sin and opened the gates of heaven for all believers; for you and for me. For this reason, the antiphon that is sung traditionally at the end of Compline or Night Prayer during Easter is the “Regina Caeli”, because it is our Queen in Heaven who is looking out for us and awaiting our entrance into her Son’s kingdom at the hour of our death. She is eager to help us and to stand before her Son on our behalf. Listen carefully, for I have many things to teach you and there will be a short quiz at the end of this lesson. Now, the oldest part of this hymn is the first four lines. I am going to look at these specifically for a few minutes. Let me first read the “Regina Caeli” to you before I explain each line. “Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia. For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen, as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia.” As we pray, or sing this antiphon, we are asking Our Lady to rejoice over her Son’s resurrection. At the end of the prayer, we also ask her to pray for us. The alleluia is a refrain said after each line of the antiphon. The word “alleluia” is an ancient way to say “Praise God!” When you say or sing “alleluia,” you are giving glory to God and praising Him in one triumphant word, a word that really cannot be translated. As Pope Benedict XVI says, “Singing finds its climactic form in the Alleluia, the song in which the very essence of all song achieves its purest embodiment. In fact, we are dealing here with something that cannot be translated. The Alleluia is simply the nonverbal expression in song of a joy that requires no words because it transcends all words. In this it resembles certain kinds of exultation and jubilation that are to be found among all peoples, just as the miracle of joy manifests itself in every nation. “What does it mean to sing with jubilation? “It means to be unable to express in words, or to verbalize, the song that sings to you in your heart. The Alleluia is like a first revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us–our entire being shall turn into a single immense joy.” When you say or sing the Alleluia, you are preparing yourself for heaven, for that single immense joy that has no end. What word could really be more wonderful to say, sing, or pray other than the holy Name of God. It is for this reason that the word “alleluia” is not used during Lent, because it is the most somber time of the year. It is the time of year that we remember how Christ died for us to free us from the punishment we deserved for our sins. The word “alleluia” is prayed and sung throughout the entire year except for Lent. The alleluia is most appropriate for Easter and for this reason is said frequently during the Easter season. The Regina Caeli is thought to be the most recently composed of the four seasonal antiphons to Our Lady. It is over 800 years old, but this is not that long when other hymns were written over 1,500 years ago. We have already spoken about the “Alma Redemptoris Mater” or the “Loving Mother of Our Redeemer” that is one of the oldest antiphons and also the “Ave Regina Caelorum”, which is the least known antiphon to our Blessed Mother. In the next episode of “Truth in the Heart”, I hope to teach you about the most popular and most frequently sung antiphon, the Salve Regina. The “Regina Caeli” has taken the place of the Angelus during Easter time. The Angelus is a short prayer that is prayed three times during the day– in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. This prayer is a devotion dedicated to the Son of God becoming man and taking flesh in Mary’s womb and in remembrance of this event. This prayer obtained its name from the first few words of the prayer– “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.” Therefore, the Angelus! The Angelus is prayed throughout the year, except during Easter at which time the Regina Caeli is prayed. By 1742, about 300 years ago, Pope Benedict XIV decreed that the “Regina Caeli” should be prayed during the Easter season. He also said that it should be prayed three times a day when the Angelus bells are rung–that is, in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. The Regina Caeli should always be prayed standing and not kneeling, which is more common. This stems from the ancient tradition that standing is the most appropriate posture for Easter prayers. To this day, the Angelus is prayed kneeling, while the Regina Caeli is prayed standing with bells ringing at specific times for both prayers. Please stay with me while we take this short break. When you come back, I will tell you the story of how the “Regina Caeli” was composed. It is a most interesting tale about angels and a great saint, so you will not want to miss it! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Sister: Welcome back to “Truth in the Heart”! Before our little break, I spent a few minutes explaining to you the words of the “Regina Caeli”. I have taught you quite a bit so far, but I would like to stop and tell you the story about who helped to write this hymn. And you will know what I mean by the end of this story. It was really a group effort, much like the antiphon “Ave Regina Caelorum” that I spoke to you about in our last lesson, but this one has even more divine help compared to any of the other antiphons. As you may have noticed, only people that are deeply in love with Our Lady are able to write beautiful hymns to her honor of which other people, for example you and me, would like to learn and sing throughout our lives. Only people who are in love sing of the person that they love with deep meaning and fervor. St. Gregory the Great was a man who deeply loved Our Lady. His life is one that I think you will find very interesting. Let me tell you his tale! Gregory began his life living among saints. His mother was a noble lady and is honored as a saint, along with two of his aunts. His education must have been good for by the time he was 30, he was Prefect of the city of Rome and his life was pointing toward a very public career. As Prefect he was much like a Mayor of a city with many responsibilities for the care and protection of a city. Even though Gregory had this great job, he left everything, and entered the monastery of St. Andrew to live the life of a Benedictine monk. Pope Pelagius II did not let him stay there for long, but sent him to the Emperor in Byzantium as an ambassador. After a few years in the East, Pope Pelagius II called Gregory back to Rome to be his personal advisor and secretary. Gregory returned to Rome to find the city very sick. People were dying from the floods and lack of food. The crops were also ruined by the floods and diseases were in everyone’s home, killing people quickly. During this desperate time, Pope Pelagius died and Gregory was elected as the next pope without any hesitations from the people of Rome. He protested, but everyone, even the Emperor, insisted that he take up the task of being the father of the entire Church. It is early in Pope Gregory’s reign that the “Regina Caeli” enters the story. It was the year 596, and Rome was still oppressed under the deadly grip of the plague. People were dying in the streets and every home was not without its dead. The plague was spreading quickly from person to person and was soon followed by death. Pope Gregory the Great implored the people of Rome to perform acts of penance and say many prayers that the plague would end. On Easter morning, the pope began a procession to the Church of Afa Caeli carrying in his own hands the picture of Our Lady that was said to have been painted by St. Luke. While processing, St, Gregory heard angels chanting the first three lines of the “Regina Caeli”. He heard the angels sing, “Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia, For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen, as He said, alleluia.” And the pope spontaneously added from his heart “pray to God for us, alleluia!” Immediately, an angel appeared and sheathed his sword, whereby the plague instantly ended. The city was clean and the people looked to St. Gregory the Great as their father and protector. Pope Gregory the Great reigned as pope for eight more years, spreading love for Our Lady through the chanting of the “Regina Caeli” and many other beautiful hymns and prayers. For the entire 14 years that Gregory was pope, he worked tirelessly for the people of Rome and the entire Church. The extent of his labors touched every aspect of our Catholic life, from the Mass to music, to relations with governments, to missionary work, and even to relations with other churches. He is one of the only two popes honored with the title, “the Great”. If we fill our hearts and minds with melodies of the saints, maybe we will hear the angels sing, too. St. Elizabeth of Hungary heard the angels singing with some birds in praise of God just before her death. St. Francis would spend days and weeks alone with God so that his heart would be filled with only heavenly hymns. All too often, the melodies that we know do not draw us closer to God, but only away from Him. Music from the radio or the I-Pod fills our minds with too much noise. For this reason alone, the “Regina Caeli” should become a hymn that everyone knows and memorizes out of love for the Queen of Heaven. If we show her honor and love, we will be with her in heaven. If we sing hymns in her honor, she will look on us with love and blessings. What really could be better? It’s time for a little break. I suggest you review your notes, because when we come back we’ll take a test on the Regina Caeli. And you won’t want to miss it. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Sister: Welcome back! You know what time it is! Now that we have learned about the life of Saint Gregory the Great, and discussed the seasonal antiphon called the Regina Caeli, let’s see what you remember. ♪ ♪ Question 1–What do the Latin words “Regina Caeli” mean in English? Voice: “Queen of Heaven.” Sister: D–Queen of Heaven. Question 2–When is the antiphon or hymn “Regina Caeli” traditionally sung in the Church year? voice: During the Easter Season. Sister: The answer is “C”. The hymn “Regina Caeli” is traditionally sung during the Easter Season. Good job! Question 3: Who is most known to have composed the antiphon “Regina Caeli”? Voice: Angels and St. Gregory the Great. Sister: You might think the answer is A, but it’s actually D. Angels and Saint Gregory the Great. Pretty neat! Question 4: Why do we stand when we say or sing the “Regina Caeli”? Voice: Because standing is an ancient form of prayer for Easter. Sister: If you said C, because standing is an ancient form of prayer for Easter, then you are correct! You really did pay attention to this lesson. Question 5–How many times a day is the “Regina Caeli” traditionally prayed? Voice: Three times a day. Sister: The answer is C. If you recall, Pope Benedict XIV advised that we pray should pray the Regina Caeli three times a day. Good job, boys and girls! Sister: To close this lesson, the Truth in the Heart Choir will sing the Regina Caeli in one of the Church’s most traditional melodies. Sisters, do you think you know this one? Sister: Thanks, Sisters, that was great. Thank you for joining me for “Truth in the Heart”. I know that you have enjoyed learning about this timeless antiphon in honor of the Queen of Heaven. I hope that you will come back to learn more about some of the greatest antiphons that have ever been written in honor of Our Holy Queen. ♪ ♪

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