O Woman Full of Grace

In You, O woman full of grace
The angelic choirs, and the human race
All creation rejoices.
O sanctified temple, mystical paradise, and glory of virgins.
In You, O woman full of grace
All creation rejoices.
All praise be to You.


British composer John Tavener (1944-2013) dedicated this work to the memory of his own mother, who had died several months before the first performance in 1985. It reflects his conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1977, taking as its text words from the Liturgy of St. Basil. He wrote of this piece: It speaks of the almost cosmic power attributed to the Mother of God by the Orthodox Church. The mysticism inherent in Orthodox worship drew Tavener in, and is deeply reflected in his music. The choir sings in a chant-like style, but is divided into two sections which strictly imitate each other, three beats apart. The chords are blurred, the effect is ethereal.

Mary, Mary…an example of motherhood none of us have experienced or could live up to. Meek and mild does not describe any mother I know. But then, no one I know is mother to God. It would seem that Mary was called to another kind of motherhood – one in which acceptance, devotion and sacrifice were her calling.

Ah, not such a different kind of motherhood after all.

Another British composer, John Rutter, described Tavener as having the “very rare gift” of being able to “bring an audience to a deep silence.” Mary is largely silent in the Bible, and in her silence she speaks of immense love.  She had the grace to not only give immense love, but to accept it as well.


This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to O Woman Full of Grace

  1. Actually, although in the Orthodox Church Mary is portrayed as embodying the height of domesticity, that is largely a misogynist tradition. She is not so abject or silent. Mary actually does speak and the Magnificat is one of the most beautiful hymns to God ever sung by anybody. Mary is a poet and a wonderer. She ponders things in her heart as the poet does. She is Christ like in all things and her union with God reflects Jesus’s and reflects Jesus Himself. It is practical and diffident with the angel of God at the Annunciation, but she is readily and joyfully open to the entirety of God with the immediacy of a child. Between Mary and God there could come nothing, not one shadow. She is given a cup that spilleth over like the psalmist, like the king.

  2. Wonderful – I love this piece – and wish St. A’s acoustics were more supportive of its mystery. One of the main thrusts of the Henry Adams’ book on Mont Sainte Michel and Chartres cathedrals, that Bruce Barrow recommended, is the overwhelming focus on Mary in Chartres – she is the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God to the extent that in Adams’ view, She architected the cathedral through the builders. He postulates that the in the century between the two churches, the MSM Norman warrior God was superceded by the Mother who could care for those left behind after the violence. I can’t help but think of the parallels to our world, where there are so many victims of violence of some kind and so much need for loving, caring, protecting – motherly – arms.

  3. Janis Grogan says:

    Beautiful Sonya. Thank you! Jan

  4. Peter says:

    Choral music brings one closer to God’s presence in our lives. This is one reason I have a disc of Gregorian Chants in my car. The chants work won\ders when traffic, or life, or both, are hectic
    Thanks Sonya..

  5. lostratton says:

    Sonya: You always hit the nail on the head and are so profound. Thank you.

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