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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:08 am 
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Though I am not a Christian, I nevertheless celebrate Christmas. And not grudgingly, either, but enthusiastically. I sometimes joke that I celebrate Winterfest, or the Solstice, but in truth it is Christmas I celebrate with all the traditions that have grown up around it: the tree and lights and the scarlet extravagance of Poinsettias and heaps and heaps of presents for the kids. Yule, Winterfest, the Solstice, all are caught up in the Christmas excitement, tangled inextricably into a timeless Mystery tied up with red ribbon and trimmed with sprigs of Holly.

In my house there is no Nativity tableau, yet the image of the Baby Jesus is always present in my mind. I don’t care that historians tell us that Jesus was not born in the winter: because it is central to the meaning of the story for me that he was. Who does not pity the poor pregnant woman made to travel in the cold of winter by the requirements of Empire? Whose heart is not wrung by the plight of the family, forced to house themselves in a barn with the beasts? Who can fail to be moved by the mother bent over the manger where her baby sleeps, “this poor youngling”?

My own first child was born in the winter. The memories of that first Christmas as a mother are fresh and poignant in my mind. Much has happened to that baby who once lay on my breast, and the hopes of innocence are long gone. Like many other mothers have, I have seen my baby grow into pain and sorrow, and there is where I make my connection with Mary. I think Mary did not care so much that her son was believed to suffer for us all, I think Mary cared only that he suffered and it was beyond her power to help him.

“Mary’s boychild, Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day” they sing. I know, on one level, that the Mass of Christ’s birth was grafted cunningly onto the celebration of Yule, and of the festivals surrounding the Solstice, so that the heathens who converted did not have to give up their winter celebrations in entirety, that the wisdom of the early Church fathers ensured that being a Christian didn’t mean you could never party on. But the truth of it is beyond archaeological knowledge: in the deeps of Winter a baby is born, and so we know the Sun and the Spring will come again.

King Herod, according to the carol, “in his raging” ordered the slaughter of the innocents. Fearing the birth of the King who would usurp him, “Charged he hath this day; His men of might, in his own sight, All children young to slay”. But King Herod failed, as History fails, as Time itself fails: every child born is Hope reborn. It is simply this, for me, that the child Jesus is the rebirth of Hope. If Jesus was Divine, so are all infants Divine.



One of my favourite Christmas records is one by Loreena McKennit on which she sings the lovely and plaintive Coventry Carol, the words of which I post here.


1. Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.
2. O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
3. Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.
4. Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.


(I began writing this with some idea of bringing the new Pampers commercial into it: one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on television. Sweetly sleeping the babies pass by our eyes, each one perfect and lovable, babies of every human kind. A woman’s lovely voice sings “Silent Night” and of course the tears sting my eyes. I am a mother, they are mothers’ children, and my heart is moved by the precious little ones and I hope in all sincerity that every one of them grows up in joy. The Pampers people have a winner here, like the famous old Coke commercial “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. For the seconds that it lasts, the world is a better place.)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:43 am 
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That was a lovely post, and very moving, vison! :)

(Although I doubt I would be moved by a commercial interpreting "Silent Night" as "hurray, the baby isn't screaming because we are using Pampers" ;) - but I understand you're reading the spot differently on the whole. :) )

I'm a bit unsure whether to say that, as I don't know if it's welcome - but then I know you're a tough lady, so I'll say it anyway ;) - the way you could see your own life and your own worries and experiences in the story of Christmas and of Mary witnessing her son suffering to me illustrates how much my religion is 'on my side', so to speak. It's not something that is outside or above us, really - above only in that it encompasses everything - not alien and imposed on us - but something that is entirely focussed on ordinary people's ordinary lives, pointing out that this is where paramount importance lies. :)

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Eine Blume der Asche meines Herzens


but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:58 am 
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truehobbit wrote:
That was a lovely post, and very moving, vison! :)

(Although I doubt I would be moved by a commercial interpreting "Silent Night" as "hurray, the baby isn't screaming because we are using Pampers" ;) - but I understand you're reading the spot differently on the whole. :) )

I'm a bit unsure whether to say that, as I don't know if it's welcome - but then I know you're a tough lady, so I'll say it anyway ;) - the way you could see your own life and your own worries and experiences in the story of Christmas and of Mary witnessing her son suffering to me illustrates how much my religion is 'on my side', so to speak. It's not something that is outside or above us, really - above only in that it encompasses everything - not alien and imposed on us - but something that is entirely focussed on ordinary people's ordinary lives, pointing out that this is where paramount importance lies. :)


Oh, the Pampers commercial is just a bunch of babies shown sleeping, one after the other while someone sings Silent Night. Just at the end there is a "Presented by Pampers" logo and that's it. It really is beautiful.

As for the rest of your post, don't worry, you haven't said anything to upset me. I see what others "get" from their faith, I just can't go there myself.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:48 am 
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vison, I feel so much the same way.

Quote:
But King Herod failed, as History fails, as Time itself fails: every child born is Hope reborn. It is simply this, for me, that the child Jesus is the rebirth of Hope. If Jesus was Divine, so are all infants Divine.


When I read that, these lyrics by Paul Simon came swirling into my head. Not exactly a Christmas song, but one that always, without fail, fills my heart with a lovely mystery of joy and hope:

Born At the Right Time

Down among the reeds and rushes
A baby boy was found
His eyes as clear as centuries
His silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

Me and my buddies we are travelling people
We like to go down to restaurant row
Spend those Euro-dollars
All the way from Washington to Tokyo
I see them in the airport lounge
Upon their mother's breast
They follow me with open eyes
Their uninvited guest

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

Too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans
Every time it registers another birth

But among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 10:05 pm 
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I must point out that in most versions, it's
Quote:
that woe is me

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:23 am 
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Crucifer wrote:
I must point out that in most versions, it's
Quote:
that woe is me


Is it? But "that woe is me" makes no sense at all.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 6:20 am 
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Anyway, there are a lot of variations in old songs like that. For example, many old North American songs were originally Elizabethan and came over in the 1600s. It's natural that in four centuries of repetition and being handed down through generations, the version in America or Canada and the version in England et al. would diverge (and there would be multiple versions in each place).

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:37 pm 
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It is language of its time. 16th century carol.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:07 pm 
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... handed down through centuries and not always in the same way in different parts of the world.

There were probably many variations on carols even in the 16th century, when few such things were ever written down.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:10 pm 
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Granted, but most versions do state 'that woe is me'.
I think the MS of whasname's arrangement (16th C person. Must check name) says 'that'.

I know that wording often gets edited and what has reached us is probably different to the original.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:31 pm 
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Edited or, in the case of songs that are mainly passed down by ear, misheard and passed on differently.

If you want to see a clear result of this, Google "Barbara Allen lyrics." :shock:

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:37 pm 
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Words aside, it is a beautiful carol.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:53 pm 
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That it is. :)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 11:23 pm 
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It is that.


And . . . Woe is I.


Why else would the melancholy Prince shout, "This is I, Hamlet the Dane" upon revealing himself at Ophelia's grave.

Perhaps he failed to recognize the linguistic environment of the moment and thought himself back in his precious Wittenberg 'mongst the supercilious.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:48 am 
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"Woe is I?"

<gets out toy bow and suction-cup arrows>

<plugs bt>

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:53 am 
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Woe is you iffen I ever gits my hands on ya, bt.

Jeez. :x

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 4:53 am 
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Woe AM I.

Crikey.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:42 am 
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<twang>

<plugs Jn too>

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:59 am 
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*ducks. shot misses. lives to correct again. decides to go check out the thread about the 11 year old who kilt da bore. hasn't read it because he's been busy with actual work, mostly. I suspect you'll all have said the stuff I would have said if I'd been there. D****

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:34 am 
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I have thought long and hard about this.

That woe is me: I am so full of woe that the woe has become me

So I don't think it's That: woe is me. More That woe (you know the one, the really sad one) is me.

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