My Favorite Christmas Song

“Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert

When I was a young girl, I came into possession of a Christmas record (those old vinyl things) called “The Great Songs of Christmas, Album Three.” On it was a recording of the most beautiful violin performance I had ever heard: Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria, performed by virtuoso Isaac Stern.

Though not necessarily a Christmas carol, Schubert’s Ave Maria is still my favorite. It makes me very emotional to hear it these days, as it was one of my mother’s favorite songs.

I eventually taught myself to play this piece – by ear. It’s a difficult arrangement, and I doubt that I gave it a very good treatment. But I was happy to finally be able to play it for my mother for Christmas.


Here are the lyrics, in Latin:

Ave Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum

Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tui Jesus

Ave Maria
Ave Maria Mater dei
Ora pro nobis pecatoribus
Ora, ora pro nobis
Ora ora pro nobis pecatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis
In hora mortis, mortis nostrae
In hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria!

English Translation:

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden’s prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish’d, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern’s heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden’s prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!

Here’s the great Luciano Pavarotti singing the Latin version:

Finally, violinist Joshua Bell, whose version is very similar to the Isaac Stern rendition I loved as a child:

The Great Songs of Christmas By the Great Artists of Our Time, Album Three. LP Record. Columbia Special Products and Stanley Arnold & Assoc. with Norfolk Productions, Inc. 1965.

Written for footnoteMaven’s Come Celebrate The Tradition of Blog Caroling.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O’Neal

Elizabeth is a genealogy and family history researcher, writer, and consultant. Adores good grammar and spelling, and believes the Oxford Comma is just misunderstood. Thrives on large quantities of coffee. One daughter, two rescued hounds, and a plethora of missing ancestors keep her on her toes.


  1. Elizabeth,

    You can play the violin? Is there anything you can’t do? LOL Maybe you and Condaleeza Rice can team up for the next concert for the Queen!

    Merry Christmas Elizabeth!

  2. I share your love Elizabeth. My grandmother loved this song as well. I become very emotional hearing it. It is very powerful. I had it played at my wedding. It is the most beautiful song.

  3. SHERI – I think “used to play” the violin would be more accurate. I studied for many years as a kid, and even majored in violin performance for a while in college, but I haven’t played in quite a few years. It’s on my list of things I want to do next year. BTW, Condoleeza Rice plays the violin? Seriously? Wow, I feel in such good company! ;-)

    COLLEEN – I had the song played at my mother’s memorial service because she loved it so much. I haven’t listened to it since then, until I wrote this post. Funny how blogging sometimes makes you come to terms with your “demons.” You’re right, it is a very powerful piece of music. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Merry Christmas to you both!

  4. Elizabeth,

    This one always chokes me up, too. My Dad loved to sing, especially the old Irish songs and Christmas carols. I’ve been missing him so much with so many songs in the air and all of your posts about favorite Christmas songs. Have a wonderful holiday with your family.


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