The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Nova, Nova: Ave Fit Ex Eva1

For The Annunciation, Advent, Christmas

The Salutation Carol of the Angel Gabriel
Based on Luke 1:26-38,
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Words: Traditional English
Compare: Gabryell of Hy3e Degree (Wright)
Gabriel, Of High Degree (Weston)

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 30-1.

1. Gabriel of high degree,
He came down from the Trinity
From Nazareth to Galilee,2
    Ut nova.

2. He met a maiden in a place;
He kneelėd down before her face;
He said: "Hail, Mary, full of grace!"
    Ut nova.

3. When the maiden saw all this,
She was sore abashed, ywis,
Lest that she had done amiss.
    Ut nova.

4. Then said the angel: "Dread not you,
Ye shall conceive in all virtue
A child whose name shall be Jesu."
    Ut nova.

5. Then said the maid: "How may this be,
Godės Son to be born of me?
I know not of man's carnality."
    Ut nova.

6. Then said the angel anon right:
"The Holy Ghost is on thee alight;
There is no thing unpossible to God Almight."
    Ut nova.

7. Then said the angel anon:
"It is not fully six months agone,
Since Saint Elizabeth conceived Saint John."
    Ut nova.

8. Then said the maid anon quickly:
"I am Godės own truly,
Ecce ancilla Domini."
    Ut nova.


1. "News! News! 'Ave' has been made from 'Eve'!" See further notes below. Return

2. Rickert notes: "Cf. the carol of p. 35 [Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell] for the same geographical error." She gives no further elucidation. Return

Editor's Notes:

Concerning note 1, I found the following post at Rosary Workshop:

EVA - AVE ...
Thought I'd share a bit of historical information with you, though you may already know this. You state on your site that the Virgin Mary is sometimes called the "new Eve".  "Eve" in Latin is "Eva". The first word that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary at the Annunciation was "Ave", which is Eve backwards. This is just a coincidence of course, but many Medieval songs used this to illustrate how Mary "undid" what Eve had done. One song has this refrain:

Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva! (News! News! "Ave" has been made from "Eve"!)

 Nicholas Churchill (USA)

Thus, the obedience of Mary cured the disobedience of Eve.

Concerning note 2, I'm not certain what geographical error Rickert is referring to here. Nazareth is a city in the area known as Galilee.  Hence, it might be more proper to say "From Nazareth in Galilee." In Luke 1:26-7 it is written "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." (RSV).

Rickert gives the following translations:

On December 10, 2006, Deaconess Elizabeth Dowling, Céle Dé, shared the following thoughts:

It could be just an error in the use of particles of speech, since this is a macaronic text (a text in two languages).

Or, it could be a reference to the Prophecy "He shall be called a Nazarene" (like Samson and St. Paul, who grew their hair, avoided wine or grapes, prayed etc. for a period of time; at least seven days). In any case, if there is this double meaning, it would indicate the very special relationship of God to Mary: without "carnality" on both sides. This symbolism does come up in the Prophecies of Christmas, and is mentioned in the Gospel of St. Matthew 2:23, "And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by the prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene." [Numbers 6:1-21, Judges 13:5-7, Judges 16:17, Lamentations 4:7, Amos 2:11-12, also see Acts 21:23-24, 26-27].

The desert fathers (see the Conferences of St. John Cassian) taught the four layers of meaning always present divided into historical and Spiritual, and of the spiritual: allegorical (symbolic by analogy, as this is to that, or the present), anagogical (looking toward a greater macrocosmic idea, or the future), tropoligical (looking within, "The Kingdom of God is within you," and also the examination of penitence or the past). The First Conference of Abbot Nesteros to John Cassian, Chapter VIII,

"Whence also Solomon when he had summed up the manifold grace of the Church, added, [Prov 31:21] ‘for all who are with her are clothed with double garments.’"

But of spiritual knowledge there are three kinds, "tropological",  "allegorical",  "anagogical," of which we read as follows in Proverbs: [22:20] "But do you describe these things to yourself in three ways according to the largeness of your heart.” These four layers of meaning are most often found in the ancient Hymns. The explanation of the four layers of meaning given in the Conferences of Cassian is about the word "Jerusalem:" an historical city: the church which is the mother of us all; the heavenly Jerusalem which is to come; and the soul populated with many thoughts and doubts, which is the only Jerusalem which our Lord admonishes. Fifteenth Century is a bit late for such an exploration, but the rest of this poem may indicate it: for example, "Ave fit ex Eva."

Editor's Note: The links to the Conferences of St. John Cassian and to The First Conference of Abbot Nesteros to John Cassian open in a new window at an exterior site (CCEL: Christian Classics Ethereal Library).

Concerning St. John Cassian, see also The Conferences of St. John Cassian and The First Conference of Abbot Nesteros (translation and notes by Edgar C. S. Gibson), at Online Books.

My thanks to Deaconess Dowling for contributing her thoughts on this issue.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.