Wednesday, December 28, 2016


"Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." From the Gospel of St. Matthew, read on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents has been celebrated since at least the 5th Century. There are other martyr's feasts during the 12 days of Christmas, of course, but this particular feast has always seemed to be to be particularly sorrowful. It is not on account of the little martyrs - they went to Heaven, to sit beside the Christ Child, giving their own lives that He might live to give His. No, it is on account of the quoted prophecy, "Rachel bewailing her children and would not be comforted, because they are not." The poor mothers. There cannot be many phrase containing so much grief and heartbreak in so few words. Indeed, in Rome, it was originally kept as a day of fasting in penance, and the Alleluia and the Glory are not sung during the Mass - the only day during Christmas when this occurs. 

However, a number of cheerful and even mad-capped traditions eventually became associated with the day - some of which have continued into modern times. A very good account of them may be found here. At the very bottom of the page there is also the fascinating reminder that the Novena to the Magi starts today. I had no idea that there was such a novena! I think I shall say it, with all do solemnity. 

Originally, I had rather wanted to post something new as far as songs go - but the Coventry Carol is the only carol I have come across for this day, which does make sense. I cannot decide which version I like better, so you are getting one by John Denver, because he's one of those classy old singers who doesn't feel as if he needs to torture the tune to make it "his". He just sings it, and it is refreshing. You are also getting it in Aramaic, because.... why not? It seemed fitting. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Merry Christmas.

Well, clearly my good intentions regarding the Great 'O' Antiphons came to naught. Such a pity. It is amazing how Life can be such a passionate mishmash of Joy of the Season, and Irritation of So High A Degree That One Wants to Punch Things and Possibly People... And further, how such a mishmash, even when Joy is the predominate emotion, renders one incapable of sincere and coherent blog posts. 

However, this is the season of the Christmas - the Great Christmas, or the Long Christmas as it has also been called - and however high Irritation might occasionally wax, it is a season of Joy and Good Will, of Music and Merriment, and Wonder at the God-made-Infant. And as such, it is unfitting not to mark it in someway here on this space on the Internet that attempts to devote itself to such glorious matters. (My how grandiose and self-important we have become!)

So first and foremost: A most merry and blessed Christmas to all of you! Please take a minute to enjoy this beautiful card, which I received from the Tolkien Society on Christmas Eve and which went a long way to putting me into the proper spirit of the great and holy Season:

I find it a particularly poignant picture, as it is based on a little sketch Tolkien appearing on this sheet of doodles, made during the time between his marriage to Edith, and being called up for active duty in the First World War. (There is also a wee kilted Scot in the corner. This pleases me.)

I also had every intention of sharing this St. Stephen's Day carol yesterday, when it actually was st. Stephen's Day, but alas, I was inefficient. Still it is a goodly song, and one that makes for good listening, so I am sharing it anyway, with apologies for my tardiness:


I also have a more timely carol to share - one in honour of St. John the Evangelist, whose feast day is today, and for which I have manifestly been unable to find an appropriate recordings of until today, though I first came across mention of it several years ago. This is a tune alternately known as To The Now, Crystys Der Derlyng or Prey for Us, Though Prince of Pes.

I shall now close, as it is half past ten, and I should like this to go up when it is still St. John's Day, properly speaking, and not flirting with being the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Merry Christmas to us all, my dears, and God bless us, everyone.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Great 'O' Antiphons - O Sapientia

Today marks one week until the Vigil of Christmas, and the beginning of the recitation of the 'O' Antiphons. I have mentioned the Antiphons before, but in the interest of thoroughness, I offer you this short history, from that most excellent website, Hymns and Carols of Christmas.

I always think I am going to mark this Advent posting each of the Antiphons on this blog, on their respective days. I have yet to manage it, but this year, I am off to a decent start by providing not only a link to O Sapientia, but also a little sketch of my own creation, to go along with the hymn. 

Normally, of course, I would post a bit of plain chant for your enjoyment, however, the idea of a being flashmobbed with a bit of Advent-tide polyphony so tickled my sense of delight, that I decided to post this one instead. Enjoy:

Sunday, December 11, 2016


I had every intention of doing posts on each Sunday in Advent. I am not going to whine and blame it on a cold, but I will say (sadly, sadly....) that either my aging immune system is starting to find the eternal business of warding away ailments to be too much for it, or seasonal ailments have a much more pernicious tenacity than they had in my youth. Colds are supposed to be relatively paltry ailments, aren't they? Someone should point that out to the nasty thingy that is going around ambushing the population here.

However, this being the 3rd Sunday in Advent - Gaudete Sunday, and half way through this season of penance, and the tenacious ailment slackening its vicious hold on my motivation, I thought I would take the time to mark this happy day with a rather beautiful excerpt from Handel's Messiah:

Today also seems like the ideal day to share a recently re-discovered Tolkien poem that was in the news a few months back. It is technically a Christmas poem, but the first couple stanza's seem so Advent that today seemed a very good day to most it:

 Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head ;
His mantle long and pale 
Upon the bitter blast was spread
 And hung o’er hill and dale.
 The world was blind, the boughs were bent, 
All ways and paths were wild : 
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent, 
And here was born a Child. 

 The ancient dome of heaven sheer 
Was pricked with distant light ; 
A star came shining white and clear 
Alone above the night. 
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth 
One voice on a sudden sang : 
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
 Together at midnight rang. 

 Mary sang in this world below : 
They heard her song arise
 O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
 And the tongue of many bells was stirred 
In Heaven’s towers to ring 
When the voice of mortal maid was heard, 
That was mother of Heaven’s King. 

 Glad is the world and fair this night 
With stars about its head, 
And the hall is filled with laughter and light, 
And fires are burning red. 
The bells of Paradise now ring 
With bells of Christendom, 
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing 
That God on earth is come

It is not so strong as some of his later poems, but you can see glimpses of his future poetry in it. The imagery is strong and beautiful, and it seems the sort of thing that ought be set to melody, and sung by people who are glad to sing and do so heartily.

And with that, a very happy day to all of you, and a blessed Advent season.