On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Christmas means family and I hope that we all can be appreciative for all our relatives from grandparents to parents along with our aunts, uncles and cousins. I know getting together with family can be trying but we can all deal with it for a little while. I hope that each and everyone of you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.  On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity is a poem by John Milton about the Nativity. Portions of the poem have been set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his  Christmas cantata, Hodie. 

On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
By John Milton
This is the month, and this the happy morn,
      Wherein the Son of Heav’n’s eternal King,
Of wedded Maid, and Virgin Mother born,
      Our great redemption from above did bring;
      For so the holy sages once did sing,
            That he our deadly forfeit should release,
            And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.
That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,
      And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heav’n’s high council-table,
      To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,
      He laid aside, and here with us to be,
            Forsook the courts of everlasting day,
            And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.
Say Heav’nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
      Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
      To welcome him to this his new abode,
      Now while the heav’n, by the Sun’s team untrod,
            Hath took no print of the approaching light,
            And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?
See how from far upon the eastern road
      The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet:
O run, prevent them with thy humble ode,
      And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
      Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,
            And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
            From out his secret altar touch’d with hallow’d fire.
It was the winter wild,
While the Heav’n-born child,
         All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in awe to him
Had doff’d her gaudy trim,
         With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun, her lusty paramour.
Only with speeches fair
She woos the gentle air
         To hide her guilty front with innocent snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinful blame,
         The saintly veil of maiden white to throw,
Confounded, that her Maker’s eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.
But he, her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-ey’d Peace:
         She, crown’d with olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphere,
His ready harbinger,
         With turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing;
And waving wide her myrtle wand,
She strikes a universal peace through sea and land.
No war or battle’s sound
Was heard the world around;
         The idle spear and shield were high uphung;
The hooked chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood;
         The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sate still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.
But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
         His reign of peace upon the earth began:
The winds with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
         Whispering new joys to the mild Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave.
The Stars with deep amaze
Stand fix’d in steadfast gaze,
         Bending one way their precious influence;
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
         Or Lucifer that often warn’d them thence,
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
Until their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.
And though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,
         The Sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame
         The new-enlighten’d world no more should need:
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright throne or burning axle-tree could bear.
The shepherds on the lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
         Sate simply chatting in a rustic row;
Full little thought they than
That the mighty Pan
         Was kindly come to live with them below:
Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep;
When such music sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
         As never was by mortal finger strook,
Divinely warbled voice
Answering the stringed noise,
         As all their souls in blissful rapture took:
The air such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echoes still prolongs each heav’nly close.
Nature, that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
         Of Cynthia’s seat, the Airy region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was done,
         And that her reign had here its last fulfilling:
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all heav’n and earth in happier union.
At last surrounds their sight
A globe of circular light,
         That with long beams the shame-fac’d Night array’d;
The helmed Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim
         Are seen in glittering ranks with wings display’d,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes to Heav’n’s new-born Heir.
Such music (as ’tis said)
Before was never made,
         But when of old the sons of morning sung,
While the Creator great
His constellations set,
         And the well-balanc’d world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the welt’ring waves their oozy channel keep.
Ring out ye crystal spheres!
Once bless our human ears
         (If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time,
         And let the bass of Heav’n’s deep organ blow;
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to th’angelic symphony.
For if such holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
         Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckl’d Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
         And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.
Yea, Truth and Justice then
Will down return to men,
         Orb’d in a rainbow; and, like glories wearing,
Mercy will sit between,
Thron’d in celestial sheen,
         With radiant feet the tissu’d clouds down steering;
And Heav’n, as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall.
But wisest Fate says no:
This must not yet be so;
         The Babe lies yet in smiling infancy,
That on the bitter cross
Must redeem our loss,
         So both himself and us to glorify:
Yet first to those ychain’d in sleep,
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep,
With such a horrid clang
As on Mount Sinai rang
         While the red fire and smould’ring clouds outbrake:
The aged Earth, aghast
With terror of that blast,
         Shall from the surface to the centre shake,
When at the world’s last session,
The dreadful Judge in middle air shall spread his throne.
And then at last our bliss
Full and perfect is,
         But now begins; for from this happy day
Th’old Dragon under ground,
In straiter limits bound,
         Not half so far casts his usurped sway,
And, wrath to see his kingdom fail,
Swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail.
The Oracles are dumb;
No voice or hideous hum
         Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
         With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
No nightly trance or breathed spell
Inspires the pale-ey’d priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o’er,
And the resounding shore,
         A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
From haunted spring, and dale
Edg’d with poplar pale,
         The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flow’r-inwoven tresses torn
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.
In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
         The Lars and Lemures moan with midnight plaint;
In urns and altars round,
A drear and dying sound
         Affrights the flamens at their service quaint;
And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.
Peor and Ba{:a}lim
Forsake their temples dim,
         With that twice-batter’d god of Palestine;
And mooned Ashtaroth,
Heav’n’s queen and mother both,
         Now sits not girt with tapers’ holy shine;
The Libyc Hammon shrinks his horn;
In vain the Tyrian maids their wounded Thammuz mourn.
And sullen Moloch, fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
         His burning idol all of blackest hue:
In vain with cymbals’ ring
They call the grisly king,
         In dismal dance about the furnace blue.
The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis and Orus, and the dog Anubis, haste.
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,
         Trampling the unshower’d grass with lowings loud;
Nor can he be at rest
Within his sacred chest,
         Naught but profoundest Hell can be his shroud:
In vain with timbrel’d anthems dark
The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipp’d ark.
He feels from Juda’s land
The dreaded Infant’s hand,
         The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn;
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide,
         Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine:
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands control the damned crew.
So when the Sun in bed,
Curtain’d with cloudy red,
         Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to th’infernal jail,
         Each fetter’d ghost slips to his several grave,
And the yellow-skirted fays
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-lov’d maze.
But see, the Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest:
         Time is our tedious song should here have ending.
Heav’n’s youngest-teemed star,
Hath fix’d her polish’d car,
         Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending;
And all about the courtly stable,
Bright-harness’d Angels sit in order serviceable.

The Nativity

The third Joyful mystery is the Nativity, the Birth of Jesus. It is found in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2), now on Christmas they do read from the first chapters of Matthew and John as well, depending on which Mass you attend. The fruit of this mystery is Poverty, Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor. I always have found it ironic that for one of the most commercial of all the religious holidays the focus is poverty, sure I understand why as Christ humbled himself to be born a human and he arrives in the world in the lowliest of places, his parents had traveled from a far, there was no room at the inn and so he was laid in a manger in a stable/cave. As we enter into this third week of Advent we talk about rejoicing, but let us also remember that this season isn’t about what we get but the time we share with family and friends.

Come From Away

Since today is a September 11th it is the perfect time to talk about this little musical about that little town named Gander, Newfoundland where 38 flights were diverted to on September 11, 2001. The musical is a mix of several types of music and it feel grounded. The musical is sort of a love letter to Gander and the people who were stranded there. Sure you can only see it in New York currently but this seems like it will be very popular in the small regional theaters across the country in the years to come.  If you can take some time today take a listen to this show anywhere you find your music and/or read up about Operation Yellow Ribbon. This is a day to remember the capacity for human kindness in even the darkest of times and the triumph of humanity over hate. I know that for some their attention is on Florida and Houston currently but even if we look at these place there are brilliant signs of human kindness. We are truly “One Human Family” and we should care more about each other than most of us do. It would be wonderful if the world didn’t have to be falling apart for this kindness to come out. Let us all try to be more compassionate to one another no matter who they are or where they come from.

Family Vacations

This past week I was on a family vacation and sure it was a tittle weird. Sure, I wasn’t related to anyone but they are family none the less. We went to the farm which was always talked about but I had never experienced. It was worth the wait but I do find the whole experience still a bit strange as I know all the adults better than their children as I’ve spent more time with all of them than the few times that their children came up/visited their Grandma and most of that time was spent catching up with their aunts and uncles/hanging out with one another so I’ve had a few conversations with them but they are basically “what have you been doing?” Sure I know them but I really don’t know much about them at all. It’s a strange relationship here all around on top of all the invites to go visit the ones out of the country. Sure I would get to know but is this the best solution.

The vacation was fun and all but there were fifteen all together and hanging out with them but as the old saying goes “guests like fish begin to smell after three days.”  This was the first real big vacation I’ve been on in a while as my own family hasn’t done anything in years  but we’ve got a big family as well so reason, but we do gather together quite a bit for parties and the like. However this was enough of a family vacation for a while.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The sequel to the surprise hit film from 2014 came out on Friday and it has been getting decent reviews from just about everywhere but most note that the sequel doesn’t live up to the original being weighed down by expectations, narrative problems and CGI bloat.  So I went to see it this weekend. Spoilers to follow.

The film is about family and who makes up a family we’ve got almost all characters doubting who they are. The movie begins with the team tasked on a mission by the Sovereign to protect some batteries from an inter-dimensional beast.  They win in the end and are thanked for their help, but Rocket steals some of the batteries and as they leave this leads to the team being chased after by the Sovereign’s ships, they are all destroyed by a mystery man “who is about an inch tall.” After the team’s ship crash lands, we learn that it was Star-Lord’s father who helped them escape. The team breaks up with Peter, Drax and Gamora going with Ego, Peter’s father to Ego’s world while Rocket and Groot are left to repair the ship and watch on their prisoner Nebula, Gamora’s sister. It’s a bit complicated as Ego want Peter to help him re-make the universe in his image. I find this bit the central problem of the film they never really explain why Ego needs to remake the world (or did they) I mean he can live forever until the light of his world is gone why not continue to do that instead of conquering the known universe. As expected The Guardians win in the end and will return in Vol 3 with music from a Zune.

The music is great and there are a few funny bit but the movie felt over done complete with the five mid/post credit scenes. There were several places where it should have been trimmed like the bit with Groot going and coming back several times to get Yondu’s fin. The film was fun and better than the over-bloated Avengers 2 (Ultron). There are two more Marvel movies this year (Spider-Man and Thor) and three more a year until 2020 perhaps we should slow down with these films and get some smaller films a chance to do something. It also seems like unconventional families seem to be the it thing to do in films nowadays.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Since Kubo was nominated for an Oscar I though that I should watch this movie it’s the only film that might have had a chance to beat Disney. Kubo comes from Laika which has put out some remarkable stop motion films all of which have been nominated for Best Animated Feature but they have yet to break though and beat Disney. Spoilers to follow.

Kubo and the Two Strings is set in ancient Japan is about stories. As the film begins we have a great hook “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned: If you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you – even for an instant – then our hero will surely perish. ” Then we see a mother and her child trying to escape something and they wash up on shore. Time passes and Kubo is a young boy with one eye and he lives with his ill mother, Sariatu in a cave atop a mountain by a village. Everyday Kubo goes down to the village where he goes and tells the story of Hanzo, a brave samurai who happens to be Kubo’s father using origami and music. As the bell rings signaling sunset Kubo need to head home as his mother warns him that her sisters and father would come and try and steal his other eye. After hearing about the Bon festival, which is a Buddhist custom that honors the spirit of your ancestors, Kubo decides to talk to his father’s spirit however father doesn’t answer Kubo leaves angry but it’s too late as it is after dark and his aunts attack him. Kubo barely escapes with the help of his mother who sacrifices herself so Kubo can go find the magic armor that his father was looking for.

Kubo is awoken by a monkey, it is his monkey charm that has been brought to life. So Monkey and Kubo begin on their quest after a day they rest and over night Kubo dreams and a little Hanzo has been folded and came to life. Little Hanzo now leads them on the quest for the armor. As they follow Hanzo, Kubo falls and stumbles upon a giant beetle, a samurai who was cursed and was an apprentice of Hanzo. After hearing that Kubo is Hanzo’s son Beetle decides to joins the quest. They go out to look for the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and Invulnerable Helmet. Will they find them before Kubo is discovered by his aunts and the Moon King takes his remaining eye?

The film is about stories and memory as most of the stories that are told are memories of Hanzo. If you want to watch a film that’s gotten raves from everywhere that’s not from Disney this is where to start. It’s a simple story but it has such emotional depth and reflection upon what is family. Kubo is a great little film and if you haven’t seen it you are surely missing out.

Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street is the latest film from John Carney, director/writer of Once and Begin Again. This is the other musical which was nominated for a Golden Globe this year. Once again focusing on music but this time in the 80s in Ireland. We have a story of a boy who starts a band to impress a girl. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins at a family meeting where we meet Lawlor’s who are on hard time so they take their youngest son Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and place him in a free state-school, Synge Street CBS, run by the Christian Brothers. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) rubs this in, joking about pedophilia, but also laments about the state of the family which is in a rocky state. On Conor’s first day at school he runs into trouble with the school principal, Brother Baxter, who reprimands him for not wearing black shoes as indicated in the school dress code, Conor also run into the school bully. This leads Conor to met a budding entrepreneur Darren (Ben Carolan), who has also been bullied and Conor and Darren become friends. The next morning or so meeting up before school Conor ask Darren who the girl across the street is, Darren doesn’t so Conor goes over and talks with her, she’s an aspiring model named Raphina (Lucy Boyton) Conor asks her if she wants to be in a music video for his band, she agrees.

The only problem is that there is no band. Conor and Darren go about assembling a band from the school.  They start with Eamon (Mark McKenna) a multi-instrumentalist, who has all these instruments around, and round out the group with the black guy in school, and two other guys who sort of are just there to fill out the band. As they get together they begin as a cover band but after Conor brings a recording of the band for Brendan to listen to, and Brendan isn’t a huge fan as they are just a cover band and cover bands are a dime a dozen. This inspires Conor to begin writing his own music and with Eamon’s help they are pretty good at it as well. After the first song is written they film a video and Raphina shows up. With each new song the band’s style evolves while Conor and Raphina get close at the same time Conor’s home life implodes. However, the closer they get Raphina seems all to motivated to leave for London to become a famous model and one day she leaves. Conor is heart broken and can’t write or play music but Brendan inspires him to write so someone can get out of this place. Will Conor write or ever see Raphina again.

If you have a brother this is a wonderful movie to watch, even if you don’t have one or you are one it tells a timeless story of love and family. Fans of the music of the 1980s should give it a look as well as those who have enjoyed other John Carney’s movies I hope that you take the time to watch the film.

Christmas

This is one of the bizarre things about Christmas. The whole secular world places the emphasis of the Holiday on the one day, but there are eleven more days of Christmas left to go. However all the radio stations which switched over to Christmas music back in November have gone back to their regular programming, Let us all try over this week to bring the joy and enthusiasm of Christmas Day last through the new Year, all the way to Epiphany. I’m sure you are going to see some sort of the meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but it’s all about birds and laborers which in real life costs a whole lot.

Christmas isn’t over and we shouldn’t act like it is.

Festivus

It seems like everyone of a certain age will know about “a Festivus for the rest of us.” This is a made up holiday that we all thought was from Seinfeld, but it actually began back in 1966 when Dan O’Keefe’s father, Daniel O’Keefe created the holiday to celebrate the anniversary of his first date with his future wife. It wasn’t until Dan O’Keefe co-wrote the Seinfeld episode “The Strike” which features this new idea of Festivus, this has become what people celebrate. According to the show George Costanza’s father, Frank created the holiday as an alternative holiday in response to the commercialization of Christmas and is celebrated on 23 December.

Festivus is celebrated by putting up a Festivus pole an ordinary aluminum pole with nothing on it, like tinsel. Everyone gathers together and eats a Festivus dinner at which the Airing of Grievances takes place. This is where everyone gathered lashes out at each other and the world for how they have disappointed the speaker, as Frank Costanza begins in the episode “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!” The celebration isn’t over until the Feats of Strength which takes place right after the dinner. The feats of strength is the head of the household challenges someone to wrestle and when ever the head of the house is pinned Festivus is over.

Over the years some people have come to celebrate it as a real holiday but other do it ironically. Will it last over the next decade or so that really is the biggest question as it didn’t really grow into something until the turn about 2000 which was like three years after the episode aired. If you are celebrating have fun with it, I guess.