Christmas Songs And Mary

Mary And The Birth Of Jesus

What are all our Christmas songs about? We touched upon vernacular and religious songs of the season in another blog post Christmas Songs Across Time.

Christianity brings us the spirit of Christmas. It's the story of the birth of a child, the manifestation of spirit into mortal flesh. This birth of light is embodied through a mere mortal woman, Mary.

Artwork by Jason Jenicke

Mary's Song

What do our Christmas carols tell us about Mary, the earthly Mother of Jesus?

Come to find out, not much. Christmas songs across the years celebrate the birth of Jesus, but there are not many that sing the story from Mary's viewpoint.

In Michael Linton's article on this topic called Looking for Mary in Christmas Carolshe describes with charming humor:

Both the “First Noel” and “Angels from the Realms of Glory” are remarkable for Mary’s invisibility.

In the nine verses of “Noel,” we have the economic condition of the shepherds (poor), the weather report (cold), the star (bright), the homeland of the wise men (far away), their mental condition (assured), the gifts (you know the list), the local livestock (ox and ass), the nature of divine creation (of naught), and, in a verse mercifully found in no hymnal, the doctrine of salvation through good works...

...there’s not even a hint of Mary. She’s simply not there.
— Michael Linton
 

As for Mary's lack of visibility, Linton offers this theory:

Our carols are primarily nineteenth and early twentieth-century Protestant inventions (although the tune dates from the Renaissance, the medieval-sounding text ‘What Child Is This’ was written in 1865), not a time that’s known for its deep Roman Catholic, Protestant cooperation and mutual affection.

Mary can’t be excised from the Christmas story completely, but in the carols she’s mentioned as little as possible, for fear of turning her into an object of cultic devotion, something most Protestants have accused Roman Catholics of doing for a fairly long time.

So Mary merits only passing mention in a few carols or, even better, no mention at all in most.
— Michael Linton
 

Today, there are a few songs that view the miracle of the birth of Jesus through Mary's eyes:

Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) – by Amy Grant

Mary's hesitant questioning speaks to her human frailty. You can almost sense the trembling of her hand as she embarks on this journey. Her doubts give voice to her concerns that she will live up to the task before her.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
must I walk this path alone?
Breath of Heaven, hold me together. Be forever near me.
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness.
 


For The First Time – by Jason Bare

With his voice and music, Jason Bare paints a scene so we can envision when Mary and Joseph look upon their son, this birth of light, and hear his cries for the very first time.

In a world so dark, heaven and earth would collide and would change who they are.
Could this be the same voice that brought us to life?
Unbelievable, the promise is this little child.
What a miracle.
The world has seen the Light for the first time.
 

Mary, Did You Know? – by Clay Aiken

As Mary held her baby boy for the first time, could she have possibly guessed the future that was about to unfurl in front of him? Clay Aiken wonders out loud if Mary could have known the remarkable destiny of her child and his greater purpose. 

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
 

Mary And The Radiant Child

The artwork by Sulamith Wulfing entitled Frohe Weihnachten portrays the radiant child of light held in Mary's heart center.

The symbology is there for all of us to appreciate. It's the awakened child within our hearts, the birth of light into the darkness of this outer existence.

For any Christmas music, students of The Radiance Technique® (TRT®) can bring a song's imagery to their meditations with use of TRT® hands-on. Accessing universal energy with TRT® lets you explore the deeper meaning behind the notes and the words.

What child is this who is awake? Awake in consciousness, even at our birth. 

 

(The Radiance Technique® is not associated with any religion or belief system.
Please see Radiant Nursing – About for more details.)

 

A Butterfly And The Opera

At The Seattle Opera

The Seattle Opera opened its 2017-2018 season with a production of Madame Butterfly written by Giacomo Puccini. All the action takes place in Japan, in the home of Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese woman also known as Butterfly.

Puccini wrote Madama Butterfly at the turn of the 19th century and historical accuracy was not his main objective. It's opera, after all.

In today's overly sensitive atmosphere, some people might cry "cultural appropriation" because of the Japanese context. That's a little silly in opera.

Since when did opera resemble real life? Never.

Opera is some of the finest cosplay. Not only do you get to dress up as a character, you act out entire scenes complete with a live orchestra sawing away underneath the action.

Everything in opera is overly-dramatic, intensified and condensed into a few hours. It's filled with fantastical, over-the-top characters. In opera, it's best not to get too bogged down in reality.

The Heart Of The Opera

Not that the emotions aren't real. Morte (death), sangue (blood) and amore (love) are grand themes that cross all our lives. And let's not forget to add in a smattering of revenge and damnation!

Magic spills into the audience as the music begins. Grandiose emotions sweep through the opera house, carried on the voices of singers and the musical strains of the orchestra.

The nuance of a vocal phrase, the lift of the melody from the violins and a musical motif capture the mercurial moods of the operatic characters. Tumbling notes twirl us along the story of life.

As a live audience member, we have only to allow ourselves to be swept away in a suspension of disbelief and to let our hearts ride the tsunami wave of music crashing over us.

Madame Butterfly's Story

Madama Butterfly captures all the essential operatic elements: love, happiness, crying, sorrow, despair and death. That's the story in a nutshell. 

In the early 1900s, Butterfly falls in love with Pinkerton, an American naval officer, and marries him in Japan. A real marriage for her and a sham for him. 

When Butterfly relinquishes her own culture for the American one of her husband, the razor sharp rejection of her own people slashes across her. Despite all odds, she stands firm in her love and devotion for him.

Pinkerton departs with his ship before learning that Butterfly is pregnant with his son. She hears nothing more from him, but believes with all her heart that he will return for her. Hadn't he said so? While she waits, her initial innocence changes to the wise depths of a woman matured beyond her years. 

Credit: Seattle Opera Company

Butterfly's Sorrow

Three years later, Pinkerton finally returns to Japan... with his new American wife in tow. They've already been married for one year.

When Pinkerton and his wife learn of the boy, they want to take him with them to America. Butterfly understands her son will never have a chance to succeed in Japan with her alone.

Making the ultimate sacrifice of her love, Butterfly agrees to let Pinkerton take their child from her. From inside her crystalized anguish, she bids goodbye to her son.

Bereft of her culture and family, Butterfly's world, and by extension that of her ancestors, is only filled with dishonor now. She believes that to die with honor, rather than live with dishonor, is her only option.

Lianna Haroutounian – Lyric-Spinto Soprano

The Seattle Opera shared the title role of Butterfly with two sopranos and I had the good fortune to hear Lianna Haroutounian. From the start, her voice sailed effortlessly over the orchestra. In the audience, we relaxed knowing we could drink in the rich tones without any strain to hear her. 

Haroutounian's voice is smooth and powerful on the high notes and her low register is strong and well-balanced. She has a wide range of vocal expression.

Haroutounian's smile as well as her tears light up the stage. Her sheer exuberance carries to the balconies as she swings her son high in the air when she learns Pinkerton's ship is in the harbor. Her entire body melts with dignified sorrow after a long night of waiting for a Pinkerton who never comes.

It's a demanding role with parts of it sung on her knees and she's on stage for nearly the entire opera.

Haroutounian gives a stellar performance. It's well worth attending more than once. 

Artwork of Madama Butterfly by Esther Wagner

Opera And Light

For students of The Radiance Technique® (TRT®): attending the opera is a perfect example of when you can sit back, relax and apply TRT® hands-on while listening to a performance. You can alternate between one hand on the heart and one on the abdomen or both hands crossed at the waist, or other comfortable positions.

For students of The Second Degree of The Radiance Technique®, it's possible to direct radiant energy to yourself while watching the show as well as the performers, members of the orchestra and fellow opera attendees. 

As we access real light, we can deepen our awareness and appreciation of the story and performance.