The Slaughter of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandaio … the fresco is part of a series of panels in the Cappella Tornabuoni in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, dating from 1486-1490
Today is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents [28 December 2015]. During this Christmas season, I am inviting you to join me each morning in a series of Christmas meditations as I listen to the Christmas cantata Hodie (‘This Day’) by the great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), drawing on English Christmas poetry from diverse sources, including poems by John Milton, Thomas Hardy and George Herbert that reflect a variety of Christmas experiences, and the narration of the Nativity story in the Gospels.
Hodie, with its blend of mysticism, heavenly glory and human hope, was composed by Vaughan Williams in 1953-1954 and is his last major choral-orchestral composition.
This morning I invite you to join me in listening to the sixth movement of Hodie.
The sixth movement of Hodie is a narration adapted by Vaughan Williams from Luke 2: 8-17 and the Book of Common Prayer, and introduces the shepherds.
Once again, the tenor sings the words of the angel; the chorus, introduced by the soprano, sings the words of the heavenly host. The men of the chorus sing the part of the shepherds:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of
the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round
about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in
the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this
shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will
toward men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we
glorify thee, we give thee thanks for thy great glory, O Lord
God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.”
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them
into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which
is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the
babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made
known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were
told them by the shepherds.