Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vox in Rama

In the 1930s and 1940s, German emigré composer Paul Hindemith was in the habit of writing a spiritual motet each Christmas for his wife, a soprano (who was, incidentally, Jewish), to perform in their home.  I have performed the one inserted below, the highly dramatic "Angelus Domini apparuit," which corresponds to today's Feast of the Holy Innocents.  The Latin text is the chilling account in Matthew 2:13-18 of the slaughter of the innocents:

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more."

May the Holy Innocents pray for us today, and especially for all those who mourn for their children, "quia non sunt."

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