Hail, True Body , born of Mary the Virgin! (Ave verum Corpus natum de Maria Virgine!)
by Catherine Fishlock
Director of Music Ministry
In my first post on this particular text, I sent a recording of the glorious setting by Mozart. These opening words of this 14th century eucharistic prayer could be sufficient in themselves for a communion meditation yet the prayer goes on to further reflect on the True Presence of Christ in the Sacred Host. Set by many composers throughout the centuries, it has proved to be a source of great musical inspiration as well as a stirring devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
In my effort to contribute to the parish life during this trying time of separation from our Eucharistic Lord, I will be sending a series of inspiring choral settings of this text. Here is the second installment for meditation, prayer, and listening enjoyment.
Composed by the 16th century English composer, William Byrd, it is in my opinion, one of the very most prayerful and moving settings of the text. Byrd lived from 1543 – 1623, and was a composer in the employ of Queen Elizabeth I, who brutally persecuted the Catholic Church in England. Interestingly, Byrd was a devout Catholic and was able to keep his head and practice his faith (in secret) because his music was so beloved and valued by the queen. We can be quite sure that this piece was written for use in the underground Catholic Church since it is a Latin text and all music for liturgy in the newly formed Church of England, had to by law, be written in English. There was considerable risk involved in continuing to write music for the Catholics but thanks to Byrd’s devotion and bravery, the Church has today in her treasury, some of the most wonderful sacred music ever written.