Sunday, December 27, 2015

Angel Voices

It makes me cry every time. Whenever I hear a superb rendition of O Holy Night, tears rise up and begin to flow. It always happens at the same place in the hymn, beginning with the words, “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices.” But I’m a goner when the sound then soars with “O night divine, O night when Christ was born.”

I recently had the joy of hearing this classic carol sung brilliantly by Eldaa Munoz~Royer as the opening for a Christmas cantata performed by the Sangre de Cristo Vocal Arts Ensemble. My tears came right on cue.

Wikipedia tells me that Adolphe Adam wrote the music in 1847, to words from the French poem, Minuit, chrétiens, by Placide Cappeau, an avowed atheist. Interesting facts, perhaps, but it is not details such as these that move me so. No, my soul is stirred by those specific words taking wing on glorious sound.

Yet this morning, I realize there is more. The lyrics of O Holy Night are also a guide to meeting our personal crises, while its score evokes in us the sense of reverence that befits such a task. 

These human lives of ours contain many dark nights, with challenges that often overwhelm. A dear friend of mine recently shared her response to such a time. During a period that was both excruciating and prolonged, she found herself called to surrender, again and again. It was all she could do. Yet, doing so felt a holy act. “There is something very sacred about surrendering,” she explained, “something sacred about giving in and giving over to what you can’t understand.”

This hymn is, in part then, an ode to surrender, encouragement to fall on our knees before that which is greater than ourselves, that which we cannot comprehend, let alone control. But it also urges us to stretch ourselves in these moments, to reach for those angel voices. In this way, we open ourselves to the possibility of Light. Even when the weight of darkness deafens our ears, a stance of open, loving surrender remains a holy one, for an unguarded, welcoming presence calls the Christ force more fully into the world. O holy night, indeed!

The Winter Solstice and Christmas, occasions for celebrating Light within darkness, are both just a few days past. We can, though, choose to embody their teachings throughout the year. Whether devout believers, atheists like Cappeau, or somewhere in between, we can fall to our knees before the unknown, before that which is beyond our capacity to understand. And no matter the words we use, we can listen for angel voices in each moment. Thus, we allow the Christ child to be born yet again, this time in the mangers of our own souls.

May all your nights be holy~~and your days, too. And may that spark of Light grow, within each one of us and across this precious world in the coming year.


Leia Marie

And here is an assortment of O Holy Nights for your listening pleasure~~

Operatic…Domingo & Pavarotti, a more laid back Anthony Nuccio, and sweet Emily Edmonds.

Gospel and Pop: Mahalia JacksonCéline Dion, and an early reader suggested Patti Labelle

Country, too…Chris Young, and Nettles & Legend

And a sweet boy…Aled Jones

Something for everyone...Enjoy!