Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Third Day of Christmas....

... We celebrate the feast day of the youngest of the Apostles: St John the Evangelist; our Lord's dearest friend; the writer of the Fourth Gospel; the Eagle of Patmos. If it is difficult to find carols in honour of St. Stephen, it is harder still to find one for St. John the Evangelist.  They exist. There is a whole page of them listed on Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Perhaps ambitious souls have even recorded some of them, at some point....somewhere... but I have found no evidence of it. So you are getting the lyrics to one of the very old carols instead - a macaronic  carol, in Middle English and Latin, which is quite charming:

To almyghty God pray for pees,
    Amice Christi Johannes.

O glorius Johan evangelyste,
Best belovyd with Jhesu Cryst,
In cena Domini upon hys bryst
            Ejus vidisti archana.

Chosen thou art to Cryst Jhesu,
Thy mynd was never cast frome vertu;
Thi doctryne of God thou dydest renu,
            Per ejus vestigia.

Cryst ont he rod, in hys swet passyon,
Toke the hys moder as to hyr sone;
For owr synnes gett grace and pardon,
            Per tua sancta merita.

O most nobble of evangelystes all,
Grace to owr maker for us thou call,
And off swetenesse celestyall
            Prebe nobis pocula.

And aftur the cowrs of mortalite,
In heven with aungels for to be,
Sayyng Ozanna to the Trinyte
            Per seculorum secula.

Whilst I was trawling about, attempting to find something besides Liturgical Propers to commemorate good St. John, I ended up listening to rather a lot of Medieval and Early Renaissance Christmas songs, and came across this lovely version of a very old carol called Lullay My Liking. I've heard it sung beautifully by a choir before - but admire this version much more:

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Feast of St. Stephen

"Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen..."

That's today - the second day of Christmas, commonly known as St. Stephen's day. In Ireland, this is the day that crazy young lads and lasses dress up eccentrically and go wrenning. I have mentioned this tradition here before, and even posted the Clancy Brothers singing The Wren Song. I didn't mean to mention the wren boys this year, but when I was browsing about in pursuit of a St. Stephen's Day carol, I came across this very brief and quite intriguing bit of interview, mentioning that tradition being kept alive.... in Butte, Montana, of all places:

I also did manage to find a carol appropriate for the day, which delights me excessively, because the last time I attempted this feat, I came up dry. Here is Magpie Lane, singing St. Stephen

And with that, I bid ye all good night.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

So... I really and truly meant to put up the O Antiphons each day, but I only managed about half of them. What can I say? Life has a way of interfering with the most well-meaning intentions, and bringing them to naught. There is always next year. Moving on:

It's Christmas Day! Or rather Christmas Evening. It has been a nice day - we even had enough snow to qualify for a white Christmas! - but I am tired from Midnight Mass last night, followed by the 5 am rising this morning. I came home from the folk's house, and played Carols on the pipes (I hope my neighbours appreciate me) and now I am sitting in a living room, lit only by Christmas tree and candlelight, sipping wassail, and nibbling honey bourbon peanuts, whilst listening to music:

Since I was not able to get all the posts done that I wanted earlier this week, I am finishing off with this timely video of Puer Natus in Bethlehem, sung heartily and with fine, manly vigour by.... La Ermita de San Jose. I think that is what they call themselves. That is what shows up on the title at the beginning at any rate. My Spanish is weak - the Hermits of St. Joseph? I don't know, but it is good, and it makes me very happy. 

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

O Root of Jesse, O Key of David

I missed yesterday, being marvelously distracted. So there are two today - O Radix Jesse, which is sung on the nineteenth:

And O Clavis David which is the antiphon for today:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

O Adonai

I tried to think of something inspirational to say, but the mind is not what she used to be. Just listen to this, and read the translation, and tell me if you are not ready for Christmas. (Yes, this one ends the same way as the last - the O Antiphons are sung before the Magnificat , and these videos include that is well. There were shorter ones to chose from, but I liked the quality of these, and the translation. So there.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Octave Before Christmas

That begins today, and is commemorated by a series of special Antiphons which are sung during the Divine Office. They are called the Great O Antiphons as each on starts with the exclamation "O".

O Sapientia
O Adonai
O Redix Jesse
O Clavis David
O Oriens
O Rex Gentium
O Emmanuel

The practice of sing the Antiphons goes back at least to 5th century, but the origin of the custom is unknown. There is a good - albeit brief article here, if you'd like more information. 

O Sapientia

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Wrote A Poem

~  A u t u m n  ~

Birds fly to exile, yet they go singing
And salmon leap into a dance with death.
The faithful Earth is fruitful in her failing
And apples flame to life at winter's breath.

The meadows smell of baking and of wine.
The ancient year makes brave in red and gold.
Wild storms sing war-songs to the pines
And the heart's own blood is quickened at the cold.

The land is a bonfire of gladness
Though wolves of winter are at the door
And God goes winnowing the fields and fastness - 
Yet kiss His hand and all adore.

~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

... And only I - so fraily human
With all my burden of little woes
Fear that Flame of God within me - 
Flinch from blessings, as from blows.