He Is Near(er)

I’ve been sharing clips of music lately and occasionally providing my commentary on the same.

I am a musician. I’ve played the piano since I was 4 years-old. I’m actually quite good at a sub-performance level. I just require several drinks in order to perform, thus wrecking the whole “performance” aspect. But in the quiet of my home with my wife, children, and terrier around, I enjoy making music. And I love to sing. McCarrick aside, my time in the seminary did teach me some valuable lessons. For instance, I learned a few basic chants and how to sing in a choir. It was a schizophrenic time to be studying for priesthood. More on that another time.

Tonight I’m thinking of one of my favorites – What Child Is This?

The melody is the old English folk tune Greensleeves. It appears the verses are a reference to a woman of loose morals. Ask yourself why her sleeves would have been green had they not been rolled around in the grass… either way, it’s one of the most haunting tunes in the Western tradition. See below.

But the lyrics that really sell it to me are the 1865 William Chatterton Dix motif laid over the top of Greenseleeves.

The first verse and refrain, ought to be quite familiar to even the most secular among us at Christmas time.

“What child is this?
Who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping
Who angels greet with anthem sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping

This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son of Mary”

But it is the second verse, second refrain, and third refrain (below) that drive home the poignancy of the Incarnation . Our Lord Jesus Christ was born to die.

“So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant King to own him
The King of kings, salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone Him

This, this is Christ, the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son of Mary

Nails fierce shall pierce him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail, the word made flesh
Obeyed the Son of Mary”

The wood of the manger prefigured the wood of the cross. The gifts of the magi are for His burial.

Tomorrow, I want to recall for you a moment in my life when this was brought to my heart in a way I never asked for, I did not want, and yet, I truly needed. I simply need a little time to collect my thoughts on this one. Forgive me if this post ends abruptly.

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