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The Rosary: Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen)

Thursday, October 02, 2014
The Salve Regina is a fitting way to end the Rosary as it provides a summary of the entire prayer. Having meditated on the mysteries of Jesus Christ – joyful, sorrowful, glorious, luminous – through the eyes of Mary his mother, we turn to her with a final request: look kindly on us in all our difficulties, and bring us home to Jesus.

In the prayer, we call Mary 'Queen' (or 'Holy Queen') after her coronation in heaven, celebrated in the Fifth Glorious Mystery, and greet her with appropriate titles and affectionate praises. What follows is a string of expressions of our great distress and our cry for help. We confidently ask Mary our Queen to show us the same loving compassion that she has always shown to the world, from the moment she said 'yes' to God at the Annunciation, to the darkest hour of her suffering with her Son at the foot of the Cross, and now in her ongoing intercession among all the Saints in glory.

Although the phrases about this 'vale our tears', our 'exile' and being 'banished' may seem very dark and depressing, the Salve is actually a prayer of confident hope, a hymn of rescue from all our difficulties. The Rosary has so often been used by Christians in their times of greatest need, and the Salve gives powerful expression to this. This point is more poignant when we consider that the prayer and its music were probably composed by Blessed Hermann 'Contractus' von Reichenau, a polymath monk who overcame enormous obstacles as a man severely disabled from birth (hence 'Contractus'). In his monastic community he flourished as a man of many talents, from theology, languages and history to music, mathematics and astronomy. He must have known many trials in his short life (only 40 years) but turned these into a greater depth of devotion, so that it remains ever fresh and relevant in our own time.

The Salve is very important for Dominicans in particular. In about 1221, we began the tradition of singing it after Compline in procession, as the last prayer of the day. Dominicans can also use the Salve after Compline throughout the year, instead of switching to the other three anthems, Alma Mater, Regina Caeli, and Redemptoris Mater. At the end of the day, so also at the end of our life: we sing the Salve at the bedside of a dying Dominican and at their funeral. At all times, we trust that Mary will look kindly on us in all our difficulties, and bring us home to Jesus.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ, 
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. 
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ, 
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. 
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte; 
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. 
O clemens, O pia, 
O dulcis Virgo Maria. 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, 
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope. 
To thee do we cry, 
Poor banished children of Eve; 
To thee do we send forth our sighs, 
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. 
Turn then, most gracious advocate, 
Thine eyes of mercy toward us; 
And after this our exile, 
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


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