Welcome guest blogger, Regina Heater! Regina is a longtime friend of the A Nun's Life community and we're delighted to have this third installment in the Advent series from her! Enjoy this Advent music and video playlist!
This week we light the 3rd candle in the Advent wreath, the Pink/Rose candle, the candle of Joy! The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Advent originated as a forty day fast similar to Lent, and so, like Lent’s Laetare Sunday, we get a bit of a reprieve from the penitential sense of the season, and get a chance to revel in the nearness of the Lord’s coming. The readings reflect both our joy and that nearness: we have more promises of what the coming of the Savior will mean for us in Isaiah, a command from Paul in Thessalonians to rejoice always, pray ceaselessly and be ever grateful, the pure, effervescent joy of the Magnificat, and finally, in the Gospel, John is on the scene, telling everyone that the Messiah is imminent. It’s really real now, folks!
There is a second component to this week as we continue our Advent preparations: the O Antiphons. These are special chants sung at Vespers in the Octave before Christmas. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, an attribute mentioned in Scripture. The first letters of the titles taken backwards form a Latin acrostic of "Ero Cras" which translates to "Tomorrow, I will be there", mirroring the theme of the antiphons. (thanks, Wikipedia!)
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
This week’s version is an a capella rendition by BYU Vocal Point. Pay special attention to the lyrics this week -- you’ll be hearing them again when you pray the O Antiphons!
This is a 16th century carol and one of my favorites. We’re creeping into Christmas territory again with the lyrics, but how can you ignore a carol that implores you to “Rejoice! Rejoice!” this week? This is a popular song to record, so if you search YouTube, you’ll find several versions from everyone from Mediæval Bæbes to Anuna to Erasure. enjoy them after you’ve listened to this one by Steeleye Span, which is really glorious.
My Soul Magnifies the Lord
The Magnificat is a popular text for composers, and a quick search will yield you wonderful settings by Bach and John Rutter, as well as contemporary composers like David Haas. This version, by Chris Tomlin, is full of joy - it will stick with you and help you keep that joy in your heart.
In Dulce Jubilo
You might recognize the tune of this next song, as it’s used for a well-known carol, Good Christian Men Rejoice. This setting, by Mediæval Bæbes, uses a translation of a text that dates to 1328.
Bonus: the organ voluntary by Bach title In dulce jubilo (BWV 729) is a traditional part of the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge each Christmas. Listen to get a different perspective on joy -- and marvel at the organist’s abilities!
The lesson from Thessalonians this week gives us important instructions: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks for everything -- for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (The Inclusive Bible).
This can seem like an impossible task - how can you constantly rejoice? how can you always be praying? I pondered this often, until one day I left Mass and found myself humming the Gloria. I thought over what I was singing, and realized that I was both praying & rejoicing - praying to God and rejoicing over all of the wonderful things God is to me in my life -- all neatly packaged in this beautiful prayer complete with music.
Here are my favorite settings of the Gloria.
Mass of Light by David Haas (This is the version before the Mass revisions.)
Mass of Renewal by William Gokelman and David Kauffman
(This link has all of the Mass music for the setting.)
Hymn of Joy (Joyful, Joyful)
The tune is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the final movement of Symphony No. 9 (give it a listen!) The words of this English poem by Henry van Dyke are among the most joyful we’ll find in any hymnal. And this version by Michael W. Smith and Anointed will most certainly encourage you to be joyful!