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Hymn of the Week: ‘The Angel Gabriel’



La anunciación (Murillo, 1648)

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/23/17

Here’s a haunting old hymn we’ll be hearing during Mass this weekend, performed here by the incomparable Kings Choir.


This English-language hymn was based on a translation, by English Anglican priest Sabine Baring-Gould (1834 – 1924), of a Basque-language folk-style Christmas carol about the Annunciation, “Birjina gaztetto bat zegoen”. It is based on Luke 1:26−38, 42−48. In recent years, it has been performed by artists including Sting – but it works well as a congregational hymn, with or without accompaniment, provided you take time to learn the slightly unusual phrasing. The tune which it is usually sung to is based on a traditional Basque tune, arranged by Edgar Pettman and published in 1922.

The lyrics:

The angel Gabriel from heaven came, With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame: “All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary, Most highly favored lady.” Gloria! “For know a blessed mother thou shalt be, All generations laud and honor thee; Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold, Most highly favored lady.” Gloria! Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head; “To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said. “My soul shall laud and magnify God’s holy name.” Most highly favored lady.” Gloria! Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn, And Christian folk through-out the world will ever say: “Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

For an Advent chaser, here’s the beautiful interpretation by Sting:

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