Over the Centuries, aspects of Mary’s life were celebrated with various feasts; the first ones were connected with the essential facts surrounding Jesus’s birth. As devotion to Mary increased and flowered over time, later feasts developed, including the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was officially proclaimed in 1854, though the faithful had sung songs to honor this tenet of belie f in popular devotion for centuries before. Florid in both melody and text, the Gradual Benedícta es tu features high and lengthy melismas, possibly implying Mary’s relationship with heaven, and her constant encouragement in pointing us up to her Son. Then it comes back to a lower range, reminding us perhaps that God chose an earthly, human vessel—like us—to co-work with him, and fulfill his plan of love and salvation for his people.
The Introit for this Feast, Gaudens gaudébo, weds past and present in many ways. Mary herself sings this song from the womb of her mother, Anne, with the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Almost from the moment of her conception, it seems, she points the way to Christ with unequivocal joy. Even the tune for this piece, composed in the 1800s, was borrowed fr om a more ancient melody. So her joy becomes our joy, and that spark of divinity occurring in a moment more than two thousand years ago can happen in our heart s today