Friday, December 26, 2008

New Yuletide Carols

Last time, I may not have made my email address quite clear. Please use:

At about age 24, I would have hated the thought of Joseph having an earlier wife, or being more than ten years, maximum, older than Mary: I would have preferred the Catholic interpretation of the "brothers and sisters" whom the Gospels give Jesus being in fact cousins. At about age 46, I felt deliciously sympathetic to the Protestant view of those siblings being Mary's younger children by Joseph. At 64, I find myself more and more drawn to the theory that one member of the Holy Family knew what it was to be widowed of a beloved earlier spouse. Some ancient apocryphal writers named her Melcha.


How good that woman must have been
Who helped to grow the soul
Of him who made those free from sin
A loving family whole.
O Melcha, Joseph's former wife,
The mother of his sons
And daughters blessed to share the life
Of God's most holy ones --

Your spirit always stayed with him.
How gladly would I paint
You at the crib with all of them:
Yuletide's forgotten saint!
Saint Melcha, pray help ease each heart
Who, widowed, aching, grieves
The union that death keeps apart
Through longing Christmas Eves.

I believe this could be sung to the tune of either "O Little Town of Bethlehem" or "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. Speaking of which -- it seems to me that "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" would sound better to the tune of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" than vice versa. Has anyone else got an opinion about this?


Oh, poor little Baby!
We've weighted You down
With vast expectations
And pointy sharp crown.

We expect You to heal
In one single breath
All our ages of conflict,
Of greed, war, and death.

We expect You to clean
With one wave of Your hand
All the messes we've made
Over God's lovely land.

We've made waiting for You
Pious reason to shirk
What parts we might play
In God's holiest work.

No wonder You'll turn
From the conquest we seek,
To die on the cross
With the feeble and meek!

Does this one mark me as a child of the Sixties?
I have no particular melody in mind. I'd thought of trying to fit new words to something like "The Coventry Carol" or perhaps -- ironically -- "Oh Come, Little Children." But these words insisted on flowing out the way they wanted, two days ago.
Some years ago I tried to read a book which made the point that the word we translate "meek" in the Biblical Beatitudes originally meant something more closely akin to "balanced" in the martial arts sense: meeting situations with proportionate actions and reactions. Unfortunately, as nearly as I could see, the rest of the book was all padding for this one idea -- but the idea itself is certainly well worth consideration, so I thank the author heartily for bringing it to my attention.
I do not know whether posting these verses -- hot off my brain the week before Christmas 2008 -- on my blog constitutes "publishing" in the copyright sense, or not. I'd offer them to Public Domain right now, but am not sure I have a right to do so. In any case, I surely wouldn't be the one to prosecute anyone using them.

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