Sunday, November 20, 2005

We Live Under a Vast Canopy...

Sundays have a wide subject field: saints, sinners, gratitude, favorite hymns, the sacred and the secular, particularly where they intertwine.

This Sunday is the last one before Advent begins. The very last Sunday in the a long, long cycle of Pentecost. So the harvest is over, and comes Thanksgiving and Advent.

When I was a little kid — yeah, that long ago — I loved Advent. It was the great season of preparation, the expectation for things unseen. Parents speaking in pig Latin about Christmas plans, learning new hymns for the Big Day ( or Big Night, when we got old enough for the Midnight Mass choir). My favorite hymn in English was “Oh, Holy Night,” mainly because Sister Marie Therese wanted us to belt out the line FALL ON YOUR KNEES. When I asked her about it a few months ago, she admitted it was intended to wake up those who’d had a few before Mass and were nodding in the pews. We got those spines stiffened after just a few choruses. I loved it.

My very favorite hymn, Christmas or no, was a hymn written in the 9th century and supposedly composed into plain chant by Thomas Aquinas. At least that’s what I remember of its origins. I suppose there are other versions out there, claiming different authorship.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae.

Since I love this hymn so much, it was the first one I had The Boy learn to play for church. For one thing, it was easy to learn. For another, it was his mother’s favorite.

“Oh, Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel” is the memories of Christmas past, the glory of the millennia.

Or, as someone said, "we live under a vast canopy, woven by the ages."


At 2:23 PM, Blogger airforcewife said...

My kids love Advent more than Christmas Day, something I am truly grateful for (means they value the season more than the presents). We spend every night with a bible reading by advent candlelight and a countdown (and a few hymns). Well, except for the Hannukah interlude, which we figure is an appropriate way to spend 8 days of Advent.

Our most requested song is "Here I Am, Lord".

At 4:44 PM, Blogger erico said...

I have wonderful memories of Advent, digging into my Dad's collection of Christmas albums and playing them on this stereo system made by Fischer that was a piece of furniture, the length of a couch, several hundred pounds, made of heavy wood, with the turntable and receiver under a lid, room to store your albums, and speakers at either end. My Dad would lie on the ground with his head in the storage cabinet for the acoustics. Nat King Cole's version of O Holy Night on that old Fischer is one of my favorite memories.

You also mention my second favorite, and moving, hymn. I guess we have good taste.


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