Perhaps many of us grew up listening to a variation of the hymn whose lyrics run along these lines, “Come with us Mary along the way…Ven con nosotros a caminar, Santa Maria ven…” The sentiment is one of filial devotion: what child does not turn back suddenly if it finds its Mother too far away shouting, “Mama!” We want our Mother with us on the whole long journey of life: on the way to the park for ice cream, or on the way to the graveyard to lay flowers on a loved one’s grave.
But not only do we have Mother Church as our companion, but we have Our Lord’s own Mother: the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is with us at all times, as surely as Our Lord is, but we perhaps feel her presence more palpably when she is presented to us in the Liturgy, particularly in Marian feasts. In each of her feasts she is an empathetic and encouraging companion for every circumstance: Our Lady of Sorrows weeps with us and prods us to greater holiness for Her Son’s consolation; Our Lady of the Rosary emboldens us in our fears, Our Lady of Fatima encourages us to pray and do penance when our zeal wavers.
Yet and still, not only is she wonderfully put forth as the Mother with us “along the way” in her feasts, but also in her antiphons. The Marian antiphons are ancient hymns to Our Lady, sung in her honor by Religious communities after Compline (Night Prayer), the last hour of the Divine Office. We begin the liturgical year at Advent with the Alma Redemptoris Mater, a sweet hymn praising Our Mother during this time of her pregnancy, which gave such delight to the Holy Trinity. We move in Lent to the more solemn Ave Regina Coelorum, and then come in Eastertide to the jubilant Regina Coeli. Finally, after the octave of Pentecost, we come to the antiphon that is the most familiar: the Salve Regina.
As Mother Church journeys with us through the liturgical year, Our Lady is there to meet us at every step: at the foot of the cross in every Mass; in her feasts, and in her antiphons. As the seasons turn and the antiphons change with them, one gets the opportunity to reacquaint oneself with an old friend each time, as though our Mother Mary was teaching us again how to live in and love this particular liturgical season of Mother Church. At this time of year, we refamiliarize ourselves with the Salve Regina, and Our Lady reintroduces to us the lessons Mother Church has for us in the season after Pentecost. As she does, may we walk joyfully and confidently with our Mothers through this life, and let them lead us triumphantly into Heaven.