Today is the last Sunday in Advent, traditionally a season of “waiting for the light to come.” In most of the Northern Hemisphere it is a time of frozen hibernation; trees stark against grey skies, grasses hoary white with frost, animals sleeping nose to tail in burrows. The days are cold, short, and ashen; the nights are brittle, freezing, and long. Even so, Advent is one of my favorite seasons. The quiet, chilled introspection of its hiatus suits my soul.
Hoping to garner some Christmas cheer today, I attended a concert of a local choir, christened “Quire.” This particular concert was held in Cleveland’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and contained music from the 16th-19th centuries, sung a cappella by a group of nineteen professional singers.
The church, consecrated in 1907, was the first church built within the Cleveland city center. It is an imposing, impressive structure built in the Gothic style with high arching stone ceilings and rich wooden accents. I went to an afternoon performance and the light of the dying day shone through the church’s enormous red, blue, and white stained glass windows.
The choir sang non-traditional Christmas songs from Medieval England, Spain, Germany, and the Americas. There were shape-note songs from the U.S., a playful 16th century Mexican carol, and hauntingly, the "Huron Carol," a 17th Century Canadian carol originally written in Wyandot, the language of the Huron Indians.
As I listened to these choral echoes, originally written for spaces much like the one I was sitting in, I ruminated on humanity. How can we be such a vain, selfish, and stupid body of individuals, and yet create luminous music that endures for centuries, passed from generation to generation until it proffers its gentle hand to me on a frozen winter Sunday in Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral?
What is Advent, the Solstice season, and Christmas, but a fervent hoping for a light to come? A capitalized Light, in the teachings of Jesus. A metaphoric light, in the Star of hope, guiding our way through the dark of night. An italicized light: we believe that the ice will melt and spring buds will ripen. We have faith that the sap will move and our blood will warm, and we turn our faces to the newborn sunshine in grateful prayer that we have survived another winter, and the bounty of summer is yet to come.
It is the epitome of hope, returning faithfully to us year after year. We believe in its promise. We count on its constancy.
I wish you blessings of this season. And Light in your hearts. And Starlight to guide your way through darkness. And light to see you through the icy, cold, and spiritless times.
My favorite Advent Carol, Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming) courtesy of uploading.com (hit the "silence" button before you click-- the site has a really loud annoying commercial that plays as it uploads)
text copyright voicegal, 2009