Holy Music










The beautiful, ancient, & reverent things that I loved about The Silmarillion, I also love about Advent & Christmas music. The songs played on the radio...well...they have their place, but they don't come near to moving me as these do. These are songs that, like the cold night air wakes my body, wake my soul to the things of God.

I wish I could type all the verses to all of them, but these will give a taste. [I've put links to some favorite arrangements, although it'd probably be safe to say that my favorite arrangement of every one would be: boys choir. Some of the videos are tacky, but it's the music that counts.]


Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand.
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ, our God, to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

The Breton Carol

A wonder sight to see,
Noël, Noël, Noël,
God's son for us is born and in a manger laid
by Mary, mother and maid,
Noël, Noël, Noël
[The Chieftans (in Gaelic)]


Gaudete

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Tempus adest gratiae / hoc quod optabamus
carmina laetitiae / devote reddamus.

(Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is born
of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!
The time of grace has come / this that we have desired
verses of joy / let us devoutly return.




Of the Father's Love Begotten

Of the Father's love begotten
ere the world began to be
He is Alpha and Omega
He the source and ending, He
of the things that are, that have been
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore.



Coventry Carol (Lully, Lullay)

O sisters, too, how may we do
for to preserve this day
this poor youngling for whom we sing
By by lully lullay (verse 1)

Herod the king, in his raging
charged he hath this day
his men of might in his own sight
all young children to slay (verse 2)

(I like to sing this especially on Dec. 28 - Feast of the Holy Innocents)


Riu Riu Chiu (Nightingale sounds)

Este qu'es nascido es el gran monarca
Cristo patriarca de carne vestido
hanos redimido con se hazer chiquito
aunqu'era infinito, finito se hizera. (Verse 2)

(The newborn child is the mightiest monarch
Christ patriarchal invested with flesh
he made himself small and so redeemed us
he who was infinite became finite.)


Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming

Lo, how a rose ere blooming
from tender branch hath sprung
of Jesse's lineage coming,
as men of hold have sung.
It came a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter
when half spent was the night.

[John Michael Talbot]

(I love to sing this on Dec. 19 when we pray the O Radix Iesse Antiphon)

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter / frosty winds made moan
earth stood hard as iron / water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow / snow on snow
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Angels and archangels / may have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim / thronged in the air
But his mother only / in her maiden bliss
worshiped the Beloved with a kiss. (verse 3)



Noël Nouvelet (or "Sing We Now of Christmas")

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici
dévotes gens, crions à Dieu merci.
Chantons Noël pour le roi nouvelet
Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons ici

(New Christmas, Christmas we sing here
devout peoples, let us shout our thanks to God
Let us sing Christmas for the newborn king
New Christmas, Christmas we sing here.)



Sussex Carol

On Christmas night all Christians sing
to hear the news the angels bring. x2
News of great joy, news of great mirth
news of our merciful king's birth! (verse 1)

All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night x2
Glory to God and peace to men
Now and forevermore, amen! (verse 4)



The Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas time,
consider well and bear in mind
what our good God for us has done
in sending his beloved Son.

With Mary holy we should pray
to God with love this Christmas day.
In Bethlehem, upon that morn,
there was a blessed Messiah born.

Above all is Handel's Messiah. Not only is it beautiful, the words are unmatched because they're from the mouth of prophets thousands of years ago. "Comfort ye my people..." "yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land..." "but who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appears? For He is like a refiner's fire." "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it..." "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low..." "and he shall purify the sons of Levi..."


Did you see the meteor shower tonight? It was brilliant; I didn't even try to count the number of shooting stars. It was cold, but it was worth it to pray through the joyful mysteries there under the open sky. Do you know, almost every time I've prayed a rosary this Advent, I've been convicted about how shallow our observation of this seasons is. Not just with all the consumerism, but even with our attitude toward Christ's coming. We're so comfortable with it; it gives us nice, warm feelings of joy & peace, &c. &c. But really, how could we be so comfortable with Christmas? If the same God who created those stars really sent His Divine Son to be born in a cave on a cold winter's night, that should put us in awe, confusion, distaste, or anything but comfort. Oh, I wish I could tell you in a way that you'd understand: the quaint little porcelain nativity set isn't just quaint!

Those stars up there look so small & sparkly & even "cute." But they are made up of fire and power, larger than you can imagine and farther than you could begin to think. The Nativity scene is sweet to look at, perhaps peaceful and comforting. But if you would only think of what it's made of: the burning fire of love and the power that breaks death. If we could only see its mysteries!

I don't understand how people can attend the solemn assembly of the Christ Mass with such ease. The whole Mass is a challenge: a presentation of Christ's death-to-self and a call for us to die to ourselves. They don't hear the words? They don't see the sacrifice on the altar? Why do they go except to meet a cultural norm? How can something so mindblowingly intense be reduced to a meaningless cultural motion? Christmas is infinitely more!

I want you all to see the awesome beauty and mystery of Christmas. Look up at the sky and stare at the stars that have become so commonplace to dispassionate eyes. Don't let the Nativity become commonplace in your life, because it is anything but common. God touching man is supernatural. God becoming man seems totally unnatural, but it brings nature back to order, redeems from sin and makes us right again.

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