December 19, 2010

The Annunciation

The Annunciation, 1898, by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

an angel came to me
and i was unprepared
to be what God was using.
mother i was to be.
a moment i despaired,
thought briefly of refusing.
the angel knew i heard.
according to God's Word
i bowed to this strange choosing.

a palace should have been
the birthplace of a king
(i had no way of knowing).
we went to bethlehem;
it was so strange a thing.
the wind was cold, and blowing,
my cloak was old, and thin.
they turned us from the inn;
the town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small
who still must learn to speak
lay in humiliation
joseph stood, strong and tall.
the beasts were warm and meek
and moved with hesitation.
the Child was born in a stall?
i understood it: all
Kings come in adoration.

perhaps it was absurd
a stable set apart,
the sleepy cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
my joy was overflowing.
the shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord
wiser than all men's knowing.

- o simplicitas, madeleine l'engle

December 5, 2010

Chorus, Christmas, & the Coming Lord

This is the weekend of the community chorus concerts, which means I've been singing and singing and singing. This afternoon is the last one, which is kind of bittersweet. I'm looking forward to a little respite for my voice, but I do love singing with the chorus.

The chorus does a spring concert and a winter concert, though the "winter concert" would be better described as a Christmas concert. All of our selections are about Christmas in one way or another. This year we're singing selections from Rachmaninoff's Vespers and Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and a bunch of other stuff including an arrangement of Star in the East with a hammered dulcimer player (it's awesome). But my favorite piece is one by Daniel Gawthrop, called O Come Emmanuel, which the chorus actually commissioned 10 years ago. The music is gorgeous, meaningful to sing, and the text is a poem by Madeleine L'Engle, taken from a collection of her poems called The Ordering of Love: the New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle (Thanks, Google books!). This poem is the second of her "Three Songs of Mary."

2. O Oriens 

O come, O come Emmanuel 
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O child conceived by heaven's power
give me thy strength: it is the hour.

O come thou wisdom from on high;
like any babe, at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth 
was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come thou Lord of might,
whose birth came hastily at night,
born in a stable, in blood and pain
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come
open the door to my heart home.
I cannot love the as a king -
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come thou Day-spring from on high:
I saw the signs that marked the sky,
I heard the beat of angels' wings,
I saw the shepherds and the kings, 

O come, Desire of nations,
be simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn!

Rejoice, rejoice, Emanuel.
God's Son, God's Self, with us to dwell.