The Baptist’s Song

As we approach Christmas, we pray in the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer about St. John the Baptist.

Perhaps you have noticed a small but notable change in the translation. The old Sacramentary had it that John the Baptist was “Christ’s herald.”

True enough; beautiful enough. But now, with the new translation, we pray that St. John “sang of Christ’s coming.”

The Christ appeared on earth, and the holy prophet sang. Locusts in his belly, camel hair around his waist, the Jordan River rushing by, and the desert wind blowing: he sang.

Can we not imagine that the Baptist sang with everything Johnnie Cash, Roy Orbison, Placido Domingo, Ray Charles, and Eddie Vedder all have to offer in their voices—rolled into one masculine melody on the wind?

The coming of Christ moves those who recognize Him to break out into song. Could be a Tallis Scholars song, or a Pogues song, a hymn, a chant, a warble. Joy and love sing.

Many beauties of the earth touch the undying, simple perfection of heaven—but to sing does so in a uniquely immediate way.

God rest ye merry. Baby Jesus comes tomorrow night. It will be time to sing.

One thought on “The Baptist’s Song

  1. Father Mark,

    Charms to soothe the savage Breast — and more!

    The phrase was coined by William Congreve, in “The Mourning Bride”, 1697:

    Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
    To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
    I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
    And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
    By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
    What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
    Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
    ‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
    Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
    The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
    He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
    Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
    Why am not I at Peace?

    There’s a reason God loved David; and song might have been a significant part of it. I like to question, “If its working for you, how come you ain’t smiling?”, of those who take their religion as a matter requiring only solemnity. Perhaps I should add to my repertory, “If you’re the great evangelist, how come you ain’t singing?”

    Merry Christmas!

    LIH,

    joe

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