Wednesday, December 08, 2010

“Ave fit ex Eva!”

[The following piece has appeared on this date in years past. We dusted it off a bit for this year, in consideration of our steadily growing audience. We love it that much, and we hope you will too. -- DLA]

It is possible for Christmas carols to never mention Christmas itself. And no, we don't mean "Jingle Bells."

With the Incarnation, we begin the focal point of salvation history, its end being the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and His ascension into Glory. And while the whole of Christendom follows, what precedes that story is what helps us to prepare.

"Angelus ad Virginem" is a 13th century carol of unknown attribution, which tells of the angel appearing to the young virgin Mary. As Christians in the West today remember the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (known in the East as "The Conception of Saint Anne"), it is easy to forget that while the Gospel accounts tell of the annunciation, the feast itself honors her conception without the stain of sin, rendering her a worthy vessel, if a human one, for the God made man. Thus it is not only the means to the end, but the end itself, by which we celebrate this feast.

1. Angelus ad virginem
    Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinum
    Demulcens inquit "Ave."
Ave regina virginum,
Coeliteraeque dominum
    Concipies
    Et paries
    Intacta,
    Salutem hominum.
    Tu porta coeli facta
    Medella criminum.

2. Quomodo conciperem,
    quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
    quae firma mente vovi?
"Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
    Ne timaes,
    sed gaudeas,
    secura,
    quod castimonia
    Manebit in te pura
    Dei potentia.'

3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
    Respondens inquit ei;
Ancilla sum humilis
    Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio,
    Consentiens
    Et cupiens
    Videre
    factum quod audio,
    Parata sum parere
    Dei consilio.

4. Angelus disparuit
    Etstatim puellaris
Uterus intumuit
    Vi partus salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
Novem mensium numero,
    Hinc Exiit
    Et iniit
    Conflictum,
    Affigens humero
    Crucem, qua dedit ictum
    Hosti mortifero.

5. Eia Mater Domini,
    Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
    Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuem exora filium
Ut se nobis propitium
    Exhibeat,
    Et deleat
    Peccata;
    Praestans auxilium
    Vita frui beta
    Post hoc exsilium.


A translation is available for your convenience, although you may get the idea. But in case you don't, a Middle English version showed up by the 14th century.

Gabriel fram Heven-King
    Sent to the Maide sweete,
Broute hir blisful tiding
    And fair he gan hir greete:
"Heil be thu, ful of grace aright!
    For Godes Son, this Heven Light,
For mannes love
    Will man bicome
    And take
    Fles of thee,
    Maide bright,
Manken free for to make
    Of sen and devles might."


Now, didn't that help?

By the 15th century, a livelier tune arose in the British Isles, known as "Nova! Nova! Ave Fit Ex Eva!" ("News! News! 'Ave' has been made from 'Eve'!"). It was not a Latin hymn, but was popularly sung in Middle English, with its dance-like melody giving way to playing of tambourines. Unfortunately, a recording of the original melody could not be found as this is written, so we settled for a later choral version. But the text is essentially the same.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Gabriel of high degree,
He came down from Trinity,
From Nazareth to Galilee.
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

I met a maiden in a place,
I kneeled down afore her face
And said, "Hail Mary, full of grace!"
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

When the maiden heard tell of this
She was full sore abashed y-wis
And weened that she had done amiss.
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Then said the Angel, "Dread not thou,
For ye be conceived with great virtue,
Whose name shall be called Jesu".
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

"It is not yet six weeks agone
Sin Elizabeth conceived John
As it was prophesied beforn."
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Then said the maiden, "Verily,
I am your servant right truly,
Ecce, ancilla Domini!"
Nova, nova.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.


Its theology is explained thus:

the Virgin Mary is sometimes called the "new Eve". "Eve" in Latin is "Eva". The first word that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary at the Annunciation was "Ave", which is Eve backwards. This is just a coincidence of course, but many Medieval songs used this to illustrate how Mary "undid" what Eve had done. One song has this refrain:

Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva! (News! News! "Ave" has been made from "Eve"!).

Thus, the obedience of Mary cured the disobedience of Eve.

This year, Deo volente, the classic story of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" will once again be told on ABC. For all the attempts to make this holyday season into something other than that for which it exists to begin with, this special has been broadcast on American television every year since 1965. We have included here the climactic moment, when Linus tutors Charlie Brown in the theology of Christmas.

Fortunately, you can't fool all the people all the time.
 

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