~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday, here at Like Mother, Like Daughter!
Last year I posted this motet for you, and I am going to go ahead and post it again. This version is a bit different from the other, and you can just listen if you don’t want to read the music. It’s so beautiful.
I keep seeing people try to make us think that we only need to know one thing about Christmas. But Christmas is a mystery — O Magnum Mysterium — O Great Mystery! We will never get to the bottom of it or reach its heights.
I have mentioned a book that bears reading, re-reading, and bringing to prayer (not something that one often says about a theological work). It’s called Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery, by John Saward. Habou had recommended it to me and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened it up anew.
The first chapter of the book is named after this text — of the motet, which is taken from the Responsory at Matins (Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours) of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Days of the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas!).
You might say that the first mystery of the Christian faith is the Trinity. And the second great mystery is the Incarnation. This text marvelously and limpidly expresses mystery, ineffability, poverty, creation, power, and lowliness. It expresses love.
- Latin text:
- O magnum mysterium,
- et admirabile sacramentum,
- ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
- jacentem in praesepio!
- O Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
- meruerunt portare
- Dominum Christum.
- English translation:
- O great mystery,
- and wonderful sacrament,
- that animals should see the new-born Lord,
- lying in a manger!
- O Blessed Virgin, whose womb
- was worthy to bear
- Christ the Lord.
I’ll leave you with a few passages from the book:
“Year by year, after the high drama of Holy Week and Easter and the calm contemplation of the weeks after Pentecost, [the Church] insists that her children go back to the humble beginning, to share the prophets’ yearning for Christ to come and the Virgin’s joy at His birth. Thus, by the law of her praying, the Church establishes the law of believing and therefore of the theologizing. The liturgy’s ceaseless return to Advent and Christmas proves beyond doubt that these and all Christ’s other mysteries are unsearchably rich in meaning, repaying unceasing contemplation.”
“Every educated Christian probably first met the mysteries in the beauty of the Church’s sacred art, when his mother showed him Baby Jesus in the Crib, with Mary and Joseph kneeling nearby.”
Quoting St. Bonaventure:
“The mysteries are these: the blessed fecundity of the undefiled Virgin; the humility, at once sublime and singular, of the superblessed Child; the courteous devotion of Blessed Joseph; the devout credulity of the simple shepherds; the new mirth of the angelic spirits; the beginning of the happiness of the whole human race; the beginning of the radiance of the Christian religion.”
Quoting Fr. Faber:
“Bethlehem exists as a living power… in the souls of men… forever alluring them from sin… forever impressing peculiar characteristics on the holiness of different persons… its works remain, and adorn the eternal home of God.”