Gregorian Chant for Advent

Gregorian Chant for Advent

News flash for the commercial, secularized world: it’s not Christmas yet, not until December 25!

It’s way too early for “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It’s time now for waiting for the Savior, a somber time of yearning and longing: the time to be singing Advent songs in your home.

There are many songs for this Advent season! I want to share with you my four favorite Gregorian chant pieces. Yes they are in Latin, and yes you and your family are able to learn them. My family has, and we are not music experts–all we had was the love of the Church and the motivation to learn her traditional Advent music!

Gregorian chant is prayer in one of its most pure forms.  This music has a beauty “ever ancient, ever new” (thanks, St. Augustine!). It has been sung during Advent to praise God and meditate on His coming for hundreds upon hundreds of years. The following chants are emininetly learnable and singable, and you will enjoy them forever.

If you are intimidated by the idea of learning to sing Gregorian chant, pick just one piece to work on with your family this Advent. I promise that you can do it. Play the video each evening together while reading the words silently. Within a few days you will be able to sing parts of the chants along with the video. By the conclusion of Advent, you will be able to sing the entire chant!

  • Conditor Alme Siderum (alt. Creator Alme Siderum) If you are picking just one, start with this one–this hymn has a simple and easy tune! The Latin and English texts are here for you to print out and sing along with the video.

  • Rorate Caeli Desuper (This video is another absolutely beautiful version with female voices.) I believe this to be the most challenging Advent chant, but so worth it! You can feel the Patriarchs’ and Prophets’ longing for the Messiah as you sing. For the Latin text and English translation, go here.
  • Veni, Veni Emmanuel (Traditionally sung later in Advent, this piece is best used from the Third Sunday of Advent on.) Very easy and commonly sung at Mass during Advent, Fisheaters provides the text in Latin and in English.
  • Simple tone Alma Redemptoris Mater This is the Marian Antiphon of the season of Advent, and it is also used during Christmastide. It is very beautiful, and my favorite of the Marian Antiphons. The link takes you to a blog post with embedded videos, as well as sheet music, the Latin text, and the English translation.

We are praying during Advent with a focused intensity on the coming of Christ: obviously His historical coming known as the Incarnation, yes, but also His Second Coming at the end of time and His coming in the presence of His grace and call to holiness in our day-to-day lives. Because we want to be holy, we need to be praying constantly! By singing Gregorian chants we can pray as the Saints have prayed in the heart of the Church for generations.


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