At the heart of symbolism

Christmas carols


Singing around the Christmas tree

Singing Christmas

In Christian confession countries, people (or families) used to gather on Christmas Eve (or day) to celebrate and sing the advent. To do this, they could:

  • Walk across the streets, a torch or a Chinese lantern in the hand;
  • Group themselves in front of the fireplace where the Christmas log was burning;
  • Hold each other hand and dance in a circle around the illuminated Christmas tree 1.

These customs established a highly symbolic link between song and flame, sound and light.

The song is the symbol of the Word, the creating Breath that links God to his creatures.

The Word, the divine Word is at the root of Creation and ordering, a word with a double meaning. It gives order to (and puts in order) the original chaos carrying all manifestation possibilities.

The first uttered word, the starting point of creation, is Fiat Lux!, the primeval Light (Genesis I.3). The first word let the creation move from the potential to the manifestation state, from night to daylight. The being results from a vibration of the creating Breath beyond any differentiation between sound and light. The distinction only occurs during the manifestation phase when sonorous and luminous waves are dissociated. Nevertheless, these waves are once again intimately reunified on the occasion of the celebration of Christmas.

Indeed, Nativity is celebrated on December 25th, which corresponds to the Sun re-birth (Natalis Solis) after the winter solstice. The winter solstice marks the end of the descending phase of the sun towards the south celestial pole and the beginning of its ascending phase towards the north celestial pole (For more of details, see the description of the celestial sphere). Straight-forwardly, the winter solstice indicates the end of the decline of the days and the beginning of their lengthening. In other terms, the celebration of the winter solstice symbolizes the end of the descent towards darkness, synonymous with ignorance, and the beginning of the elevation towards light, clarity, clear Knowledge.

Christmas carols (from the French carolle, a medieval dance in a ring) celebrate this re-birth of light, distant echo of the divine Word when sound and light were one only.

The ordering light can only be an intelligible Light, for it includes all the Creation in the unified state. The intelligible Light is the essence of the “Spirit”, the spiritual world at the source of “the Universal Man” that integrates the three phases of the being's development (physical, psychical and spiritual). Jesus child came from Heaven on Earth to light the way back from Earth to Heaven, the way leading from the state of ordinary being to the state of “Universal Man”. The words of the Christmas carols do nothing but say the four master words of Jesus: “Come and follow me!”

The most famous Christmas carol in the world will even more enlighten the various facets of Jesus.

Silent night, Holy night

The words of the Christmas carol Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht date back to 1816 and were written by Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), priest in Oberndorf/Salzburg in Austria. The music was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber (1797-1863), school master and organist in Hochburg, a neighbouring village. The German text presented here is the authentic version known as “Autograph VII” written around 1860.

Most English versions include only three verses instead of the six in the original. They correspond to a translation of verses 1, 6 and 2, in that order. The following translation does not try to fit the melody, but to render the original German text as well as possible.

The six verse song echoes the six day creation in the Biblical tradition. Jesus comes down to Earth to show people the way of salvation, the way back from Earth to Heaven, the way of the re-birth of the spiritual being preceding the Fall.

  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Alles schälft; einsam wacht
  • Nur das traute heilige Paar.
  • Holder Knab im lockigten Haar,
  • Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
  • Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • All are sleeping, alone and awake
  • Only the intimate holy pair,
  • Lovely boy with curly hair,
  • Sleep in heavenly peace!
  • Sleep in heavenly peace!
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Gottes Sohn! O wie lacht
  • Lieb aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
  • Da schälgt uns die rettende Stund
  • Jesus in deiner Geburt!
  • Jesus in deiner Geburt!
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • Son of God, O how he laughs
  • Love from your divine mouth,
  • Then it hits us, the hour of salvation.
  • Jesus at your birth!
  • Jesus at your birth!
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
  • Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn
  • Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh´n
  • Jesum in Menschengestalt,
  • Jesum in Menschengestalt.
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • Which brought salvation to the world,
  • From Heaven's golden heights,
  • Mercy's abundance was made visible to us:
  • Jesus in human form,
  • Jesus in human form.
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Wo sich heut alle Macht
  • Väterlicher Liebe ergoß
  • Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
  • Jesus die Völker der Welt,
  • Jesus die Völker der Welt.
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • Where on this day all power
  • of fatherly love poured forth
  • And like a brother lovingly embraced
  • Jesus the peoples of the world,
  • Jesus the peoples of the world.
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Lange schon uns bedacht,
  • Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit,
  • In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
  • Aller Welt Schonung verhieß,
  • Aller Welt Schonung verhieß.
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • Already long ago planned for us,
  • When the Lord frees from wrath,
  • Since the beginning of ancient times
  • A salvation promised for the whole world,
  • A salvation promised for the whole world.
  • Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
  • Hirten erst kundgemacht
  • Durch der Engel Alleluja,
  • Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
  • Jesus der Retter ist da!
  • Jesus der Retter ist da!
  • Silent night! Holy night!
  • To shepherds it was first made known
  • By the angel, Alleluia,
  • Sounding forth loudly far and near:
  • Jesus the Saviour is here!
  • Jesus the Saviour is here!

Source: http://www.stillenacht.at/en/text_and_music.asp

1 back In Scandinavian countries, the Christmas tree is an important element of the 24th December celebration. Its branches are trimmed with small decorations and national flags. The tree is topped by a silvery star and, traditionally, illuminated by candles whose light scintillates, thanks to the silvery strings laid down on the branches. Many Scandinavians still consider today that candles are preferable to electric bulbs to create an authentic Christmas atmosphere.

After the festive meal, people hold each other hand and dance around the illuminated tree while striking up traditional songs. They turn in one direction, then in the other so that to reflect the apparent movement of the sun at the winter solstice; the descending phase of the astral body towards the celestial south pole, towards darkness, gives way to the ascending phase towards the celestial north pole, towards light. Let us remind that Christmas is called “Jul” in Scandinavian languages and refers to the celebration of the winter solstice in ancient times.

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