That should technically be a singular noun—phenomenon—as I’m only going to talk about one. I’m sitting here in my room, with a window open, listening to the weakened strains of Hurricane Katrina waft their way across campus. We’re under a tornado watch, a flood warning, a severe thunderstorm watch, plus a chance of rain. With the window open and the frogs and cicadas and crickets doing their little chirping thing they do, there’s an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. I don’t feel like sleeping. I feel like writing. I feel like sharing with the world my happy feeling.
I listen from bed and think about getting up, when a new and strange sound enters upon this organic experience of open windowness. It’s the sound of a dozen or so mellow male voices, chanting an ancient plainsong hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mater misericordiae. The intrusion of human voices upon the quiet and peace of the irrational (meaning nonliving—see Phil201 for more details) world sometimes is so jarring and inappropriate. Car radios blaring and obnoxious laughter come to mind. However, these richly blended voices coming in through my window have no such unpleasant effect. I listen to their words, and I get up. I write.
Salve Regina, mater misericordiae. ‘Hail Queen, merciful mother.’ They open their song of supplication and pleading, not with a ‘Mommy, gimme!’ but a high and courtly expression of greeting. These knights, standing in the rain and offering their prayers for one of the Queen’s maidens, treat the Lady herself with utmost respect. They carry her colors with them into battle, and their every greeting of her begins in this same manner. ‘Hail!’ The knights come in confidence and manly pride, not hubris, but real and inspiring confidence in themselves, for they can do all things in Christ, Who strengthens them. They hail their Queen, and they begin to describe her in the manner of any servant addressing a royal figure. They begin listing, as epithets in an epic, those qualities of their queen which they desire to serve and protect. Merciful mother, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra salve. ‘Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.’ Not only are these knights full of respect, they are full of love. The Queen is all in all to them, their intercessor with the King and hence their greatest ally.
Ally? Let’s go back. She’s not just an intercessor and ally in the plainest sense of the word. They have called her ‘mother.’ Ah! So these knights are not only knights, but sons of the Queen. With formality and chivalrous grace, they lavish upon their mother and Queen these expressions of love and admiration. They cannot imagine a more beautiful and wonderful woman! What a lovely Lady they serve! She can do anything for them.
Ad te clamamus, exules filii evae. ‘To thee do we cry, banished sons of Eve.’ Supplication in the most touching humility. These sons of hers, knowing that they have been granted sonship and a share in the kingdom by the King himself, yet choose to align themselves under another sonship, one which emphasizes their faults and weaknesses rather than blessed position. They are sons of Eve, fallen men, whose failings are so very present to them, ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum vale. “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” The Knights bend their knees, bend their pride, bend their very souls in humility, weeping openly and without shame for the faults they carry. Their worldly baggage weighs on them so heavily, they can do nothing but sigh to their Queen. They feel so hopelessly mean and worthless in her sight, they mourn as exiles in a vale of tears and shame.
However, the Queen does not disdain these beloved Knights of hers, tottering wayfarers in a dark forest as they are. She smiles upon them in grace and love, and they are heartened to finish their prayer. Eia ergo advocata nostra illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. ‘Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us.’ Again, mercy is appealed to, because the Knights know full well there is nothing they deserve. They seek a merciful intercession, a merciful gift, from a mother whose love for them is inexpressible. Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tuis, nobis post hoc exilium ostende. ‘And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’ Like wise Solomon of old, these humble Knights know better than to ask for worldly wealth or power or glory. No. They stand outside my window, in the rain and the cold wind, and ask for nothing more than the Queen to introduce them, intimately, to her son. Their desire is to know the King, and they approach him through his Mother, their loving advocate and mother as well.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.
The maid who serves the Queen closes her window and goes to sleep. The Knights disperse and return to their own habitat…all are in their rightful place. Having shown themselves humble and gracious in their hymn of supplication to the Queen, the Knights seem all the more manly in the eyes of the maids who listen from behind their curtains, savoring the deep and strident tones which ring out in praise of the Mother of them all. There is a peace in the world tonight as the Knights who protect us go their way, having sung a prayer to the Queen for our intentions and interests in the upcoming year.
I love birthday singing.