Catholic Activity: Hymns and Carols
Discussion of various Christmas carols and hymns.
The singing of hymns and carols is the natural adornment of Christmas customs and stories at home. The great wealth of Christmas carols from many times and many lands should be discovered by American families. Most of these carols have a popular appeal and nearly all of the important ones have been translated into singable English. Many indeed are available in recordings, both in the original tongue and in English. For this reason we have omitted the mention of familiar American and English carols, as well as such hymns and carols as "Silent Night" and "Adeste Fideles"; these are all well known to American homes and shall indeed be fostered by our people. Ancient Latin and foreign carols broaden our understanding of Christmas. They are easily understood by children since they belong to the international treasury of folklore. The children may be given an early appreciation of the universality of the love which all nations have offered to the Infant Saviour.
The hymns which are nearest to the heart of the Church as the Bride of the heavenly Spouse are those which are found in her liturgical books. It would be very appropriate, for example, on this holy night to sing the Vesper antiphon, Jerusalem gaude, followed by the Magnificat of our Blessed Lady on the solemn tone. The Vesper hymn Jesu Redemptor omnium reflects a movement of joyous peace which lies at the heart of Christmas. Some of the simpler elements from the Masses of Christmas are easily sung by children. This is clearly seen as we listen to the recordings of Father Hellriegel's choir of children. For example, the English version of the rhythmic fourteenth-century Latin carol called Quem pastores laudavere is pleasing to the pure minds of children.
It would be totally impossible to mention all of the carols which come from various countries in celebration of Christmas Eve. For Christmas Eve we recommend in particular the following carols: "Come, All Ye Shepherds" (Czech); "Behold a Branch Is Growing," "Sing, O Sing" (German); "Carol of the Children of Bethlehem" (Austrian): and the French carols "Bring Your Torches, Jeannette, Isabelle," "Whence, O Shepherd Maiden" (inspired by the responsory of the second nocturn of the Sunday within the octave of the Nativity), and "Oh, Publish the Glad Story."
Activity Source: True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, Grail Publications, St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1955