Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

So it's the last hours of the year and I've been having a quiet day and a quiet night as well. New Year's Eve is quite hyped, I think, these days and I have largely lost interest in the frantic celebrations and extravagant displays. It's almost like a Neitzschean eternal return, these maxed out secular festivities. And already I can hear fireworks in the distance and parties all around.
This time last year I was housesittting, too, but at a different place (right now I'm at Wavell Hts) and it was likewise a night on my own. I was surveying the rubble of a ruptured friendship, a friendship so important to me, and reconciling myself to all manner of lost hopes and dreams, well trying to reconcile myself. Just about everything seemed shut down around me, but there was still one possibility that I had decided to embrace, a union job that seemed to be opening before me. Of course, it turned out to be a false path but I wasn't to know it then.
A year later the ruptured friendship is reconciled but he is leaving Brisbane in January for who knows how long, so with reconciliation comes separation. As for anything else, I look at next year and there's nothing. I have no job prospects, no career plans, nothing. Any hopes I had in that regard have long since evaporated. They were largely rubble this time last year anyway. Now, too, I have no institutional affiliation either. I'm an independent scholar - which is not a bad place to be actually.
I look back over the past year, a year marked by grief, depression, the pit. To my surprise, though, the main feeling I have is how extraordinarily blessed I've been. Here at Wavell Hts, I'm looking after two cats and a dog and today with the rain finally gone and the sun shining, I thought I'd take the dog for a walk. I hadn't walked a dog in years. It felt really good and she is a lovely dog too. But as we were walking in the park, I was struck by just how lucky or fortunate I was, how blessed I was. When I looked back over the year, I kept thinking how much worse things could have been. If I had to descend into the deep pit of depression, then I was put in the best possible place to do so. At the same time while I had no paid work, I was still engaged in community events particularly relating to the Museum of Brisbane's LGBT History exhibition. I am quite astonished by the things I did in 2010. I don't know how I did any of that because I remember all too well just how I was feeling, just how paralysed with doubt and anxious I was.
And so I regard 2010 as an especially blessed year and I am grateful for the blessings I received. I don't know why I received them, I certainly don't feel worthy of it, but they were given to me and I feel quite humbled by it. I'm looking at 2011 with trust; that's all I can do. Whoever, whatever has been watching over me these last few years has brought me through so far. I look forward almost eagerly to what you'll bring me next year. I suspect there will be more struggles and there is the pain of separation. But separation is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a way of building and strengthening friendship. Certainly that's what I hope and pray will happen and what I commit myself to. As for what else is in store for me, I guess I can expect plenty of surprises.
And so for you too, dear reader, I hope you can see the blessings that came your way in 2010 and I hope many more will come to you, and I, in 2011. May you be richly blessed in this comng year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More on the BBC's Nativity

Last month I wrote about the BBC's new 4 part dramatisation of the Nativity story in which they portray Mary and Joseph as a kind of couple found in contemporary romantic fiction. I pointed out how this modern notion of Mary and Joseph's "enduring love story" was in striking contrast to the ancient sources, canonical and non-canonical, from which we draw the story in the first place. For ancient and medieval Christians and for the sources themselves, there's no love story at all, not least because marriage was not about love. For one of those sources, the Protoevangelion of James, not only is there no love story but there's not even a betrothal - the adolescent Mary is initially more of a ward of a very much older Joseph's care and protection. Marriage is more an afterthought, resulting from Mary's pregnancy.

The Protoevangelion also attempts to show the danger pregnancy might hold for the young Mary and, surprisingly, for the elder Joseph too. It seems the BBC drama attempted the same thing, causing a bit of a kerfuffle as a result. Matthew is the one canonical source that alerts us to the fact that being unexpectedly pregnant when betrothed might be the cause of a problem by telling us that when Joseph learnt of her condition, he decided to "dismiss her quietly" rather than "expose her to public disgrace" (Matt 1.19). The BBC's Nativity wasn't content with that. Instead, according to this report in the Guardian

It shows the mother of Jesus trying to flee a hostile Bethlehem crowd and a
rabbi refusing her the haven of his synagogue, letting her escape through a back
door instead.

Unsurprisingly, the former Chair of the Reform Judaism Assembly of Rabbis, Jonathan Romain, who also sits on BBC advisory panel on matters religious, has come out and criticised Nativity for turning the Nativity story into an exercise in bashing Judaism.

"The Gospels tell us there was no room at the inn, not that a rabbi kicked Mary
out of a synagogue," he said. "Having survived Mel Gibson's anti-Jewish Easter
onslaught The Passion now the season of goodwill has been spoiled."

I can understand Romain's concern and I'm also rather puzzled by this too. I assume the makers of Nativity want to bring home to a modern audience the cost that pregnancy might mean for an unmarried woman. But honestly a mob chasing Mary through the streets of her town? It sounds too melodramatic, over the top, for my taste. Pregnancy for a single woman in ancient a Palestine would no doubt have been a horrible disgrace. Her life could well have been at risk, not only from the pregnancy itself, but also from honour killing within the family. Honour killings happen now in parts of the Middle East, including Palestine; I don't believe they're an invention of Islam. If not honour killing she may also have faced rejection by her family and thrown out alone into the world. Even if she wasn't rejected by her family, her suitability for marriage was now finished. She might end up as a drudge in the family home, instead - and encumbered by a child. That is, of course, assuming the entire population of Judea or Galilee or wherever it was Mary came from shared such ultra-negative attitudes to pregnancy outside of wedlock. But again we can't be certain. I suspect that the ancient population we term Jewish, may well have been more diverse in its attitudes and beliefs than we imagine. Nevertheless, female virginity has always been highly rated in marriage economies and I think it a safe bet that most inhabitants of Judea and Galilee and even Samaria had that much in common. But a mob chasing a pregnant 14 year old through the streets, I don't think so. I suspect the programme's makers have as an intertext the story of the woman taken in adultery. But adultery is a different matter - it's a crime against the husband's ownership of his wife's womb and sexuality. The gospel passage doesn't say but the woman would have been a wife caught or accused of being with another man. Mary was not a wife, yet.

I also have a problem with the portrayal of the rabbi, who I beleive is also wearing a prayer shawl. Now I haven't seen Nativity but it sounds as if the rabbi is in relationship to the local synagogue as rabbis are today, at least in most Jewish denominations, and as most Christian clergy are to their local churches. In other words, here we have Bethlehem's parish rabbi. Now 200o years ago I'm not certain that rabbis and synagogues went together like horses and carriages. We get references to presidents of synagogues in the Roman world, but they're not necessarily rabbis, sometimes they were even women! Judaism was extraordinarily diverse back then and the Temple was also still in existence (plus a subsidiary Temple down the road in Leontopolis Egypt). Bethlehem is a stone's throw from Jerusalem and it's not surprising that, in the ancient accounts of the Nativity, synagogues don't get a mention but the Temple features quite strongly. There were Temple lands adjacent to Bethlehem where Temple flocks were grazed, most of which would end up as sacrifices. In Judea especially, priests were equally important religous functionaries, maybe more important than rabbis. Was there a synagogue in Bethlehem and if so would it have had a resident rabbi or any sort of rabbi for that matter? Rabbinic Judaism was just one thread in the ancient Jewish tapestry; it would take two or three wars against Rome and the destruction of the Temple and its cult to allow Rabbinic Judaism to become the norm for most Jews, and even then not without struggle and resistance.
I'm struck by the fact that Nativity has to resort to such melodramatic tropes to try and bring this story alive, especially given the richness of the primary narratives. Is it no longer possible to imagine worlds where marriage and love don't automatically go together? Is it no longer possible to imagine shame, disgrace and danger, unless there is mob violence involved? Or does the spectre of mob violence draw on, even invoke, a mixture of progressivist prejudices against the past mixed up with contemporary Western (neo-colonial?) prejudices against perceived hidebound and backward (Jewish and Islamic) alien cultures? After all, it's not that long ago, in my lifetime, when being pregnant and unmarried was considered a serious disgrace in our own English speaking and Western cultures too. And in many parts of the Anglosphere it might even still be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Power, Flight and Refuge - the feast of the Holy Innocents

Today is the fourth day of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The day commemorates the infants of Bethlehem which according to Matthew's Gospel were murdered by King Herod in a desperate attempt to kill the Christ child. Herod had been alerted of his birth by the arrival of the Magi who had come wanting to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews. Herod arranges with the Magi that when they find the child they would return to him and tell him its whereabouts so that he could go and pay homage too. Of course Herod really wants to kill the child. The Magi are subsequently warned by angels mot to return to Herod but to leave Judea and return to their homeland. Herod realises what has happened and orders the killing of all boy children in Bethlehem 2 years old and under. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee and he and Mary take flight with the infant Jesus and escape into Egypt while the massacre is carried out.

2.13 Now when they (the Magi) had departed, behold, an angel of the
Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his
mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about
to search for the child, to destroy him."
2.14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 2.15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

2.16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men
2.17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
2.18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more."

Matthew's account is short, sparse, six verses. There is a longer and quite dramatic account in the Protoevangelium of James. Here, it's the infant John the Baptist who becomes the focus of Herod's attention, presumably because he has heard of the prodigies surrounding the birth. While the infant boys of Bethlehem are massacred, Elizabeth flees with her infant son and finds miraculous refuge in the mountains. Herod then turns on her husband, Zechariah, who is murdered in the Temple by the soldiers.

21. And, behold, Joseph was ready to go into Judæa. And there was a great
commotion in Bethlehem of Judæa, for Magi came, saying: Where is he that is born
king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and have come to
worship him. And when Herod heard, he was much disturbed, and sent officers to
the Magi. And he sent for the priests, and examined them, saying: How is it
written about the Christ? Where is He to be born? And they said: In Bethlehem of
Judæa, for so it is written. And he sent them away. And he examined the Magi,
saying to them: What sign have you seen in reference to the king that has been
born? And the Magi said: We have seen a star of great size shining among these
stars, and obscuring their light, so that the stars did not appear; and we thus
knew that a king has been born to Israel, and we have come to worship him. And
Herod said: Go and seek him; and if you find him, let me know, in order that I
also may go and worship him. And the Magi went out. And, behold, the star which
they had seen in the east went before them until they came to the cave, and it
stood over the top of the cave. And the Magi saw the infant with His mother
Mary; and they brought forth from their bag gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned by the angel not to go into Judæa, they went into their
own country by another road.

22. And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.

23. And Herod searched for John, and sent officers to Zacharias, saying: Where have you hid your son? And he, answering, said to them: I am the servant of God in holy things, and I sit constantly in the temple of the Lord: I do not know where my son is. And the officers went away, and reported all these things to Herod. And Herod was
enraged, and said: His son is destined to be king over Israel. And he sent to
him again, saying: Tell the truth; where is your son? For you know that your
life is in my hand. And Zacharias said: I am God's martyr, if you shed my blood;
for the Lord will receive my spirit, because you shed innocent blood at the
vestibule of the temple of the Lord. And Zacharias was murdered about daybreak.
And the sons of Israel did not know that he had been murdered.

24. But at the hour of the salutation the priests went away, and Zacharias did not come forth to meet them with a blessing, according to his custom. And the priests
stood waiting for Zacharias to salute him at the prayer, and to glorify the Most
High. And he still delaying, they were all afraid. But one of them ventured to
go in, and he saw clotted blood beside the altar; and he heard a voice saying:
Zacharias has been murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped up until his
avenger come. And hearing this saying, he was afraid, and went out and told it
to the priests. And they ventured in, and saw what had happened; and the
fretwork of the temple made a wailing noise, and they rent their clothes from
the top even to the bottom. And they found not his body, but they found his
blood turned into stone. And they were afraid, and went out and reported to the
people that Zacharias had been murdered. And all the tribes of the people heard,
and mourned, and lamented for him three days and three nights.

This account omits the flight into Egypt. Why? Who can say? Did Herod carry out a massacre of children? We don't know. It's only related in Matthew and other Christian texts. It would certainly be in character and that in the end is the only judgement that can be made. History must here defer to story and it's the story or stories that are most important here not some fundamentalist attempt to step through the text into ancient Palestine. And so for this day I put the two texts, the two oldest accounts of this narrative of ruthless power and terror, side by side. I do so as a reminder that the Christmas story is not one merely about bourgeois niceties and warm feelings but also contains within it horror and dread, fear and flight. These are stories that still have resonance in our world; they describe events that are taking place all the time in our world. Power, arrogance and cruelty and fear and flight and refuge. The need for refuge has particular significance here in Australia given the shameless and cruel demonisation and victimisation of asylum seekers fleeing to this land. I was heartened at Christmas Mass to hear a sermon about the rights of asylum seekers and not the usual vacuous or worse. And so to finish this post I'll point you to Abdul Karim Hekmat's account of his voyage seeking asylum here in this country and why.
If you celebrate Christmas then the only response to those seeking refuge is welcome.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Biblical Illiteracy of Biblical Scholars

Today is the feast of St John the Apostle and Evangelist who has been identified in very ancient tradition as the Beloved Disciple of the Gospel that bears his name (basically on the strength of him being the Beloved Disciple) and I was tempted to write something on same-sex love and the relationship of Jesus and John/the Beloved Disciple. However I've been distracted by my reading.

I'm currently reading/reviewing a couple of books and today I've just finished reading one of them, Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible. I'm still gathering my thoughts about it; suffice to say I enjoyed much of it and was put off by it in almost equal terms, not least because it is in many ways an imperialist, US imperialist, exercise. So many of the essays seem to have as their underpinning concern - there are people out there who don't subscribe to our bourgeois liberal order of reality; they are using religion and 'The Bible' or Scripture as the ideological base for their rejection of our nice liberal order; even worse, a substantial number of them live in these here United States. This last point I think is the main concern; Islamic terrorism and even ultra-Zionist settler terrorism in Israel (on the last point with the exception of the Jewish contributors) are of course foreign, outside, not us, and so not so surprising for its rejection rather than the extraordinary violent impact of that rejection. No what is most unnerving is the spectre of US fundamentalism, the apparent refusal of so many of 'us' to subscribe to the tenets of the liberal order. As both a gay man and a Catholic (not to mention a 'foreigner', outside the US) I find that US fundamentalism quite disturbing and both threatening, as someone both non-USan and gay, and thoroughly twisted and blasphemous, as a Catholic person. But perhaps the apparent 'liberality' of the order was really a mask to hide its ruthlessness and violence. After all, the liberal order is one based on a ruthless class and race based oppression at home and abroad. It is a violent and murderous order for all its pretence at reason and liberality.

But that's not what I want to write about tonight. Rather, I come back to the old question of canon and how astonished I am that scholars these days really are ignorant of the history of the anthologies we call Bible/s. In most of the essays 'the Bible' is accepted as a given without even the recognition that Bibles are multiple and various. Unsurprisingly, it's the Jewish authors who will acknowledge that plurality, but, perhaps unsurprisingly too, they can only see the plurality in terms of two (sometimes three, if the Qur'an is included). That was most strikingly exemplified in the final essay of the anthology, Subversion as Return, by Shaul Magid.

Magid is mostly writing for Jewish concerns and as part of his argument he wants to demontrate the constructedness of Biblical canons. So his essay first sets out to sketch a 'brief genealogy of what we today call the Bible' (218). He gives a relatively adequate account of the making of the Jewish canon (although there are parts of it I would dispute) before turning to the Bible in Christianity. Christian Bible-making reinforces his argument by showing analogous processes in Christianity and Judaism which produced their various Bibles. Magid makes his entry point into Christian scripture by highlighting the difference between the Hebrew Bible of Judaism and the Old Testament of Christians. The Hebrew Bible ends with Second Chronicles, which closes with King Cyrus issuing his decree to allow the return of Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple there. As the final text of the Hebrew Bible, 2 Chronicles is placed after Ezra-Nehemiah which recount the return of exiles to Jerusalem and the work of rebuilding the Temple and the city walls. Magid then contrasts the Hebrew Bible ending with the ending of the Old Testament. He wants to highlight the contrast "the rabbinic and early Christian view of history and, by extension, the rabbinic and early Christian view about divine will" (219). He continues "The Christian canonizers had something quite different in mind when they concluded the Hebrew Bible, their "Old Testament," with the prophetic words of the prophet Malachi..." (220).

The problem here is that the 'early' Christian canonizers didn't end their Old Testament with Malachi. If they ended their Old Testament with one of the prophets it was Daniel (not counted as a prophet in the Jewish Hebrew Bible). That's the final Old Testament book in my Eastern Orthodox Study Bible. That's also how one of the oldest Christian Bibles, Codex Vaticanus, ends it's Old Testament. And presumably that's how the other ancient Christian Bible, Codex Sinaiticus, ends its prophetic component of the Old Testament, including Malachi in the Book of the Twelve as the first prophetic book (Sinaiticus is incomplete - the Twelve, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations survive intact but Ezekiel and Daniel are missing). However Sinaiticus follows the prophetic corpus with the four Books of Maccabees, ending its Old Testament with 4 Maccabees. The other ancient Christian Bible, Codex Alexandrinus, ends its Old Testament with Sirach, placing the prophets plus the four books of Maccabees in the middle of its Old Testament.

It's also important to note that these ancient bibles did not use the Hebrew Bible for their Old Testament but the Greek Bible referred to as the Septuagint. Over in the West, Jerome tried to revise the Latin Bible by basing it on the Hebrew Bible but he was unsuccessful being resisted by none other than Augustine. The result was that the Latin Vulgate Old Testament of the West was a kind of hybrid of both Hebrew and Greek Bibles. Augustine certainly closed his Old Testament with the prophets but for him it seems that Ezekiel went last (De doctrina christiana 2.13). Augustine understood the order of the prophets as The Twelve, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel.

Nevertheless, the Latin Bible came to order its prophetic corpus as we in the West are familiar with today - Isaiah, Jeremiah & Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea-Malachi (or the Twelve). However, the prophets were followed by 1 and 2 Maccabees. This was the ordering in the 15th century Gutenberg Bible and remains the order in Roman Catholic bibles to this day.

The Old Testament order that Magid refers to only came into existence with the Reformation; it is the standard Protestant Old Testament but I'm wondering if the intent was to end with Malachi or whether it was the accidental result of the removal of the 2 books of Maccabees and other texts (such as Baruch) and their relegation to the so-called Apocrypha (they aren't apocryphal for Roman Catholics and Orthodox). So Magid has actually confused the Protestant Old Testament and its canonizers with the various Old Testaments of early Christianity and the canonical processes of their day. Protestantism is the dominant religious form in the US and indeed one could even say that the US is a grand Protestant, even Calvinist, experiment. Magid's understanding of Christianity and Christian Bible making processes has been heavily refracted through that Protestant lens, despite the fact that Magid is himself a Jew.
Magid's error is all the more striking because he actually set out to relate a biblical genealogy to highlight the constructedness and diversity of biblical canons. And is that one of the key problems of this book, that it doesn't really address the key assumptions and ideological constructs underpinning US society and that frame the entire culture wars scenario that so many of the contributors are attempting to remedy, or even worse, 'manage'.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Selection of Lessons and Carols for the Nativity

Below is my offering for Christmas. Rather than writing something I thought I would compose something with text and music. You can regard it as an online installation or as a liturgy. My inspiration comes in part from the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas, most famously performed every year at Kings College Cambridge. But I found 9 was not enough for me and so I've expanded the lessons to 12, and some of them having multiple 'voices', a practice I've noticed in the Roman rite Easter Vigil Liturgy especially. I also drew on the practice of the old Tridentine rite, to incorporate what was called a Sequence. I have used that for a text from Qumran, one I think quite an important background text for Christian origins. I've also incorporated a series of Graduals, which serve as both a bridging text to the following carols and the next reading as well as a kind of commentary on the text just read.

In constructing this post I have deployed the good old liturgical principle of juxtaposition - texts, music and lyrics all interact with each other to weave a broad effect. No text speaks on its own but contributes to an overall gestalt. I suspect many biblical and para-biblical texts had their origins in just this way. They are composite texts, just as liturgies are composite texts, and other performance pieces like Handel's Messiah. I can't help but think that Isaiah, for example, should be read as a libretto rather than a book.

I had a number of key goals with the weaving of this piece. The first was to represent some of the rich cultural diversity of Christianity. So there is music from the Middle East, Ethiopia. Greece, Russia, and Eastern Europe as well as from Western Europe and North America. I have also tried to give a sense of the Hebraic traditions from which Christianity sprang. There is a popular fiction that Christianity went feral and pagan very early on, dumping its Jewish heritage, hence its popularity and spread in the broader Gentile world. I question that notion. Christianity was born from and retained its Hebraic traditions. Jesus might or might not have been the first Jewish Messiah but he was by no means the last and in so many subsequent Messianic upwellings in Judaism, the same clustering of themes, re grace and law, freedom and transgression, incarnation and deification, sacrifice and redemption, death and resurrection, ritual and sacrament, recur albeit with different emphases. These themes form a dangerous undercurrent within, or below, normative Judaism and are especially associated with Jewish mystical traditions such as Kabbalah. The Hebraic tradition itself represents an exercise of recasting and transforming the older and contemporary 'pagan' milieux from which it itself derived. The Hebrew tradition reconfigured 'paganism' and Christianity brought the fruits of that endeavour to the broader Gentile world/s.

Finally I have tried to make the Christmas story look strange, which is how it should look in my opinion. And so I have drawn on texts that are unfamiliar or not normally used in (Western) Christmas settings. In this I have probably failed, but that's okay :-) - it's a big challenge I set myself. And I should also add that an astute reader should pick up some moments of queer slippage too. Christianity is probably the queerest of all religions, hence the virulent homophobia with which it is all too sadly connected. I regard it too as probably the most dangerously audacious vision of life and our world ever conceived by humans. If it is not true then life probably isn't really worth living in any meaningful way. In my opinion the closest alternative is one sprung from the womb of Christianity itself, Communism (in which I include anarcho-communism and syndicalism). In fact the greatest tragedy of our current world is probably the recurring failure, dare one say betrayal, of both Christianity and Communism by the respective leaderships over the generations.

And so I leave you to read and enjoy. You can do it all in one sitting or come back periodically. If you have limited download capacity then you might not be able to watch all or any of the clips. In that case I have also embedded links to the lyrics and other information wherever possible. So skip the music and follow the link. Except where otherwise indicated all biblical passages are from the RSV. No special reason, just the first online Bible site I found (and one restricted to the standard Protestant canon) was one which gave limited options, of which I thought the RSV the best.

Finally, finally, in light of the recent tragedy at Christmas Island, I would like to remind you that Jesus began his life as a refugee in flight from the cruelties of power at least according to the stories we have and I have tried to acknowledge that too.

And so read on...


Gaudete, performed by Steeleye Span - Latin text and English translation here

Introit: Psalm 110

1 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."
2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you.
4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek."
5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

Lesson One - Selections from Genesis in Four Voices

Voice One: Genesis 2.4-8
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up--for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no adam to till the ground;
6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground--
7 then the LORD God formed the adam of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the adam became a living being.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the adam whom he had formed.

Voice 2: Genesis 4.1
1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."

Voice 3: Genesis 19.30-38
30 Now Lot went up out of Zo'ar, and dwelt in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zo'ar; so he dwelt in a cave with his two daughters.
31 And the first-born said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring through our father."
33 So they made their father drink wine that night; and the first-born went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
34 And on the next day, the first-born said to the younger, "Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring through our father."
35 So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.
37 The first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.
38 The younger also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

Voice 4: Genesis 21.1-6
1 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.
2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.
3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.
4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; every one who hears will laugh over me."
Gradual: Psalm 2.7-10
7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth

Niño Dios D'amor Herido (Francisco Guerrero) - The title translates roughly Christ-Child Wounded by Love

Lesson Two - Selections from Ruth in Two Voices

Voice One: Ruth 1.7-18
7 So she set out from the place where she was, with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
8 But Na'omi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
9 The LORD grant that you may find a home, each of you in the house of her husband!" Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
10 And they said to her, "No, we will return with you to your people."
11 But Na'omi said, "Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?
12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,
13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me."
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."
16 But Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God;
17 where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you."
18 And when Na'omi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Voice 2: Ruth 4.13-17
13 So Bo'az took Ruth and she became his wife; and he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
14 Then the women said to Na'omi, "Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next of kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!
15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him."
16 Then Na'omi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.
17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Na'omi." They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Gradual: Isaiah 9.2-6

2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Mid'ian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
(The ancient Greek Septuagint version renders the final part of this verse "and he is named Messenger (Angel) of Great Counsel for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him.")

Whence Comes This Rush of Wings (A Carol of the Birds)

Ethiopian Orthodox Hymn - The Saviour of the World is Born Today

(If you like Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas music, there's another great clip here)

Lesson 3: Selections from Genesis in Four Voices

Voice 1: Genesis 3.1-21
1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?"
2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die.
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
10 And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
12 The man said, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."
13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I ate."
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

Voice 2: Genesis 6.1-6
1 When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them,
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.
3 Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Voice 3: Genesis 18.17-21
17 The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him?
19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him."
20 Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor'rah is great and their sin is very grave,
21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know."

Voice 4: 22.1-10
1 After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."
2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off.
5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you."
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
8Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
10 Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

Gradual: Wisdom of Solomon 11.22-26 (King James Version)

22: For the whole world before thee is as a little grain of the balance, yea, as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth.
23: But thou hast mercy upon all; for thou canst do all things, and winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend.
24: For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it.
25:And how could any thing have endured, if it had not been thy will? or been preserved, if not called by thee?
26:But thou sparest all: for they are thine, O Lord, thou lover of souls

O Magnum Mysterium (setting by Giovanni Gabrieli)

Lesson 4: Selections from Isaiah in Two Voices

Voice 1: Isaiah 7.10-14 from Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll Column VI Lines 25-29
25. (10) [{And continuing YHW}]H spoke to Ahaz saying, (11) Ask for yourself a sign from YHWH your God
26. [{from the deep ask}] it or from the height above. (12) And Ahaz said I will nor ask and I will not
27. [{tempt}] YHWH. (13) And He said, Hear now Oh House of David, is it a small thing for you
28. [{to wear}]y men, will you also weary God, (14) therefore [+YHWH+] [m..adonay] himself will give to you [{a sign}]
29.[{Behold}] the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son and he shall call his name Immanuel. (15) Butter [{and honey}]

19. from generation to generation they shall dwell in it. (chapter 35:1.) The wilderness and the desert will rejoice for them and the plain shall be glad and blossom like the rose (2) And it shall blossom profusely, and rejoice even with joy and singing the glory of Lebanon
20. is given to her, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of YHWH. the [..majesty..] of our God. (PP)
21. (3) Make strong the weak hands, and firm up the tottering knees. (4) Say to the hasty of heart be strong and do not be afraid behold
22. your God comes with vengeance, with recommence God himself comes and He will save you. (5) Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened
23. and the ears of the deaf shall be opened., (6) Then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the dumb shall sing, because of the breaking out in the wilderness
24. of water and streams in abundance [m..the plain] [+shall go out+].

Gradual: Psalm 118.24-29

24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech thee, give us success!
26 Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar!
28 Thou art my God, and I will give thanks to thee; thou art my God, I will extol thee.
29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!

Angeli v Nebi/Angels in Heaven, Russian kolyadka/carol sung by the Novokuznetsk Spiritual Seminary Choir

Lesson 5: Proverbs 8.22-31

22 The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth;
26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men.

Gradual: Isaiah 40.1-5

1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

And the Glory of the Lord (Handel)

What else? But this time in Korean sung by the Chai Hoon Cha Choir, Seoul

Czech Carol: Narodil se Kristus Pán/The Lord Christ was Born - Czech lyrics on YouTube page here and if your browser is Google Chrome it will roughly translate them for you too

Lesson 6: Selections from 1 Enoch in Three Voices

Voice 1: 42.1-3
1 Wisdom found no place where she might dwell; Then a dwelling-place was assigned her in the heavens.
2 Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men, And found no dwelling-place:
Wisdom returned to her place, And took her seat among the angels.
3 And unrighteousness went forth from her chambers: Whom she sought not she found, And dwelt with them,
As rain in a desert And dew on a thirsty land.

Voice 2: 46.1-3
1 And there I saw One who had a head of days, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.
2 And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that 3 Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days And he answered and said unto me: This is the son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden,
Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever.

Voice 3: 48.1-6
1 And in that place I saw the fountain of righteousness Which was inexhaustible: And around it were many fountains of wisdom: And all the thirsty drank of them, And were filled with wisdom, And their dwellings were with the righteous and holy and elect.
2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits, And his name before the Head of Days.
3 Yea, before the sun and the signs were created, Before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Spirits.
4 He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, And he shall be the light of the Gentiles, And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.
5 All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him, And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits.
6 And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him, Before the creation of the world and for evermore.

Gradual: Zechariah 9.9-10

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.
10 I will cut off the chariot from E'phraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel/O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - English lyrics here

Medieval Christmas Music in Prague played by Dubia Fortuna

Sequence: 11Q13 - The Coming of Melchizedek, Qumran text

(...) And concerning what Scripture says, "In this year of Jubilee you shall return, everyone f you, to your property" (Lev. 25;13) And what is also written; "And this is the manner of the remission; every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because God's remission has been proclaimed" (Deut.15;2) the interpretation is that it applies to the Last Days and concerns the captives, just as Isaiah said: "To proclaim the Jubilee to the captives" (Isa. 61;1) (...) just as (...) and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, for (... Melchizedek) , who will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them the Jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of all their sins. He shall proclaim this decree in the first week of the jubilee period that follows nine jubilee periods.
Then the "Day of Atonement" shall follow after the tenth jubilee period, when he shall atone for all the Sons of Light, and the people who are predestined to Melchizedek. (...) upon them (...) For this is the time decreed for the "Year of Melchizedek`s favor", and by his might he will judge God's holy ones and so establish a righteous kingdom, as it is written about him in the Songs of David ; "A godlike being has taken his place in the council of God; in the midst of divine beings he holds judgement"
(Ps. 82;1). Scripture also says about him ; "Over it take your seat in the highest heaven; A divine being will judge the peoples" (Ps. 7;7-8) Concerning what scripture says; "How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality with the wicked? Selah" (Ps. 82;2) ,the interpretation applies to Belial and the spirits predestined to him, because all of them have rebelled, turning from God's precepts and so becoming utterly wicked. Therefore Melchizedek will thoroughly prosecute the vengeance required by God's statutes. Also, he will deliver all the captives from the power of Belial, and from the power of all the spirits destined to him. Allied with him will be all the "righteous divine beings"(Isa. 61;3).
(The ...) is that whi(ch ...all) the divine beings. The visitation is the Day of Salvation that He has decreed through Isaiah the prophet concerning all the captives, inasmuch as Scripture says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion "Your divine being reigns"." (Isa. 52;7) This scriptures interpretation : "the mountains" are the prophets, they who were sent to proclaim God's truth and to prophesy to all Israel. "The messengers" is the Anointed of the spirit, of whom Daniel spoke; "After the sixty-two weeks, an Anointed shall be cut off" (Dan. 9;26) The "messenger who brings good news, who announces Salvation" is the one of whom it is written; "to proclaim the year of the LORD`s favor, the day of the vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn" (Isa. 61;2)
This scripture's interpretation: he is to instruct them about all the periods of history for eternity (... and in the statutes) of the truth. (...) (.... dominion) that passes from Belial and returns to the Sons of Light (....) (...) by the judgment of God, just as t is written concerning him; "who says to Zion "Your divine being reigns" (Isa. 52;7) "Zion" is the congregation of all the sons of righteousness, who uphold the covenant and turn from walking in the way of the people. "Your divine being" is Melchizedek, who will deliver them from the power of Belial. Concerning what scripture says, "Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; in the seventh month . . . " (Lev. 25;9)

Col. 9 [...] The masses
will worship God because He has come to judge everything
and to rid the earth of evil,
so that sinners shall find no repose,

the heavens shall give their due,
and there will be no wrong doings there.
The earth will produce crops in its season
and they shall not fail.
The fruit trees shall [ . . . ] of their vineyards

The poor will eat for those who follow YHWH shall not go hungry

Arabic Hymn of the Nativity - "Today, is born of a Virgin, He who holds the whole creation in His hand"

Diva Sina Porodilla/A Virgin Gives Birth to a Son - Russian kolyadka (carol) sung by the Novokuznetsk Spiritual Seminary Choir

1. A cup of milk was offered to me, and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness.
2. The Son is the cup, and the Father is He who was milked; and the Holy Spirit is She who milked Him;
3. Because His breasts were full, and it was undesirable that His milk should be ineffectually released.
4. The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom, and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.
5. Then She gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing, and those who have received it are in the perfection of the right hand.
6. The womb of the Virgin took it, and she received conception and gave birth.
7. So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.
8. And she labored and bore the Son but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose.
9. And she did not require a midwife, because He caused her to give life.
10. She brought forth like a strong man with desire, and she bore according to the manifestation, and she acquired according to the Great Power.
11. And she loved with redemption, and guarded with kindness, and declared with grandeur.
Gradual: Revelation 12.1-6
1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
2 she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
3 And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
5 she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days

Angelus ad Virginem - popular medieval carol (follow link for lyrics)

Erourem, Erourem/Rejoice, Rejoice - A Greek Byzantine kalanta (carol), Greek lyrics at YouTube here and if it's your browser is Google Chrome will probably make a reasonable translation of them

AND thereupon I heard the voices and the giving of praise, which I had heard in each of the six heavens, ascending and being heard there:
2. And all were being sent up to that Glorious One whose glory I could not behold.
3. And I myself was hearing and beholding the praise (which was given) to Him.
4. And the Lord and the angel of the Spirit were beholding all and hearing all.
5. And all the praises which are sent up from the six heavens are not only heard, but seen.
6. And I heard the angel who conducted me and he said: "This is the Most High of the high ones, dwelling in the holy world, and resting in His holy ones, who will be called by the Holy Spirit through the lips of the righteous the Father of the Lord."
7. And I heard the voice of the Most High, the Father of my Lord, saying to my Lord Christ who will be called Jesus:
8. "Go forth and descent through all the heavens, and thou wilt descent to the firmament and that world: to the angel in Sheol thou wilt descend, but to Haguel thou wilt not go.
9. And thou wilt become like unto the likeness of all who are in the five heavens.
10. And thou wilt be careful to become like the form of the angels of the firmament [and the angels also who are in Sheol].
11. And none of the angels of that world shall know that Thou art with Me of the seven heavens and of their angels.
12. And they shall not know that Thou art with Me, till with a loud voice I have called (to) the heavens, and their angels and their lights, (even) unto the sixth heaven, in order that you mayest judge and destroy the princes and angels and gods of that world, and the world that is dominated by them:
13. For they have denied Me and said: "We alone are and there is none beside us."
14. And afterwards from the angels of death Thou wilt ascend to Thy place. And Thou wilt not be transformed in each heaven, but in glory wilt Thou ascend and sit on My right hand.
15. And thereupon the princes and powers of that world will worship Thee."
16. These commands I heard the Great Glory giving to my Lord.
17. And so I saw my Lord go forth from the seventh heaven into the sixth heaven.
18. And the angel who conducted me [from this world was with me and] said unto me: "Understand, Isaiah, and see the transformation and descent of the Lord will appear.

Gradual: Exodus 40.34-35; 2 Chronicles 7.1-2
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle

1 When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house

Nebo i Zemlya/Earth and Heaven - Russian kolyadka (carol), English translation here

Χριστός γεννάται σήμερον/Christ is Born Today - Greek kalanta (carol) possibly from old Smyrna (now Izmir Turkey)

Lesson 9: Hebrews 1.1-12

1 In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3 He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to what angel did God ever say, "Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?
6 And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."
7 Of the angels he says, "Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire."
8 But of the Son he says, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy comrades."
10And, "Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands;
11they will perish, but thou remainest; they will all grow old like a garment,
12 like a mantle thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years will never end."
Gradual: Philippians 2.5-9
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name
Wexford Carol - Traditional Irish Christmas Hymn, lyrics on Wikipedia site and at YouTube

I Saw a Swete Semly Syght - Medieval carol, lyrics at YouTube here

17. And there was an order from the Emperor Augustus, that all in Bethlehem of Judæa should be enrolled (cf. Luke 2:1). And Joseph said: 'I shall enrol my sons, but what shall I do with this maiden? How shall I enrol her? As my wife? I am ashamed. As my daughter then? But all the sons of Israel know that she is not my daughter. The day of the Lord shall itself bring it to pass as the Lord wilt.' And he saddled the ass, and set her upon it; and his son led it, and Joseph followed. And when they had come within three miles, Joseph turned and saw her sorrowful; and he said to himself: 'Likely that which is in her distresses her.' And again Joseph turned and saw her laughing. And he said to her: 'Mary, how is it that I see in thy face at one time laughter, at another sorrow?' And Mary said to Joseph: 'Because I see two peoples with mine eyes; the one weeping and lamenting, and the other rejoicing and exulting.' And they came into the middle of the road, and Mary said to him: 'Take me down from off the ass, for that which is in me presses to come forth.' And he took her down from off the ass, and said to her: 'Whither shall I lead thee, and cover thy disgrace? For the place is desert.'
18. And he found a cave there, and led her into it; and leaving his two sons beside her, he went out to seek a midwife in the district of Bethlehem.
And I, Joseph, was walking, and was not walking; and I looked up into the sky, and saw the sky astonished; and I looked up to the pole of the heavens, and saw it standing, and the birds of the air keeping still. And I looked down upon the earth, and saw a trough lying, and work-people reclining: and their hands were in the trough. And those that were eating did not eat, and those that were rising did not carry it up, and those that were conveying anything to their mouths did not convey it; but the faces of all were looking upwards. And I saw the sheep walking, and the sheep stood still; and the shepherd raised his hand to strike them, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the current of the river, and I saw the mouths of the kids resting on the water and not drinking, and all things in a moment were driven from their course.
19. And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: 'O man, whither art thou going?' And I said: 'I am seeking an Hebrew midwife.' And she answered and said unto me: 'Art thou of Israel?' And I said to her: 'Yes.' And she said: 'And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave?' And I said: 'A woman betrothed to me.' And she said to me: 'Is she not thy wife?' And I said to her: 'It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but hath conceived of the Holy Spirit.'
And the widwife said to him: 'Is this true?' And Joseph said to her: 'Come and see.' And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: 'My soul hath been magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen strange things—because salvation hath been brought forth to Israel.' And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary.

Gradual: Isaiah 42.1-4
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law

The Cherry Tree Carol, sung by Joan Baez, lyrics here

Nowell We Sing

Lesson 11: From Gospel according to Luke
Luke 2.1-14
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

Gloria in Excelsis Deo (J S Bach)

Luke 2.15-28, 34-35
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God

34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

Gradual: Protoevangelium of James 22.1-8
22. And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: 'Slay the children from two years old and under.' And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, said: 'O mountain of God, receive mother and child.' And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.

Coventry Carol (Trad, 15th century), sung by Tori Amos, lyrics

The Coventry Carol sung by Joan Baez

O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night, Philadelphia Municipal Employees Chorale Ensemble

Lesson 12: From the Gospel of John the Beloved

John 1.1-14
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God;
3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.
11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father

Gradual: 1 John 4.7-9; Revelation 21.2-6
7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;
3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
5 And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6 And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.

Verbum Caro Factum Est/And the Word Was made Flesh (John 1.14)

El Cant Des Ocells/Carol of the Birds (Traditional Catalan), English translation here

Concluding Prayer and Blessing - Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

And so, dear reader, I wish you peace this Christmas and I pray that 2011 will be rich in wonder for you. As a parting gift for you this Noel I give you a link to this marvellous clip of Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston performing 'O Holy Night' live. There's a little bit of TV show chat at the start but stick with it, it's worth it. I would have used it here but embedding was disabled. And I close our little celebration here with yet another version of Gaudete.