HYMN 283 Angels Sang Where Weeping Mothers/Coventry Carol
Matthew 2:7-18 Text: Gracia Grindal (1943-) Tune: James E. Clemens 1. Angels sang where weeping mothers Wept against the brutal soldiers, Rachel weeping for her sons. 2. Christ was born in Bethl’hem’s manger, Born to suffer pain and danger; Soon his weeping will be done. 3. Joseph, flee with Christ and Mary; Flee to Egypt, do not tarry, Hear her weeping for her son. 4. Herod’s word are cruel and brutal, Killing Bethl’hem’s seed, but futile; Herod’s war cannot be won. 5. One day Pilate’s words will kill him, Christ will die for all the children, Mary weeping for her son. 6. From the sorrow Satan gave us, God has come in flesh to save us; Weep with joy for God’s own Son. © Copyright 2015 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc. COVENTRY CAROL Text: Robert Croo 1534. Tune: English Folk R/Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child, Sleep well, Lully, lullay And smile in dreaming, little one by, by, lully lullay. 1 O sisters too, How may we do For to preserve this day? This poor youngling, For whom we do sing ? By by, lully lullay? R/ 2 Herod the king, In his raging, Charged he hath this day His men of might, In his own sight, All young children to slay. R/ 3 That woe is me, Poor child for thee! And ever morn and day, For thy parting Neither say nor sing By by, lully lullay! R/ MEDITATION
This is an awful story. Not many hymns mention it. The Coventry Carol does, but few others do. The Flight into Egypt, which precedes it, is not much treated in hymns either. The artists, however, love the picture of Mary, Joseph and the babe resting on their way to Egypt. While their rest on the way to Egypt is not in the Matthew account, it was in a collection of stories called The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and became a common scene for painters. King Herod, on realizing the wise men had not returned to tell him of the new-born king, struck out with violence against the young boys of Bethlehem. He had a history of murder behind him. Whenever he sensed a rival was encroaching on him, even his own children, out came his swords. That is a common thing when any king thinks his rule is threatened, either by a rival or revolution. Oddly enough, they seem not to think of their own mortality. Ultimately, we will all be dethroned by death. Many people seem to live a long time before that absolute reality dawns on them. These days I am in something of a holy panic about our kids, our innocents. They are suffering more from the pandemic’s restrictions than from the virus. The readers of this blog in countries where children have been in school through the time know how important that is. The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC (Center for Disease control in the US) have both recommended sending the kids to school in this time. They need to be together with their friends and classmates. Their lives are far more important than mine—they have a whole lifetime to live and grow. The Saint Paul Public Schools, for example, recently announced that 40% of their students were failing. Being set back by this will have lasting impact. I am old and nearing.the end of my time on earth. Although I have things to do, not a bit of it is as important, by my lights, as the kids. Herod's brutality is horrifying, but policies, even those intended to do good, can also do harm. We judge the quality of a people by how they treat the weak among them, especially children. We need to attend to their suffering from despair, abuse, even suicide (which has increased among younger kids during this time) and no school. And we do need to care for our weak and elderly. The statistics are clear that those suffering and dying the most from the virus are over 70, especially those with comorbidities. They need love, affection and good treatment. I have heard grandparents say they would prefer dying a few months earlier than be deprived of holding and being held by their families. Will we look back later and wish that we had done it another way? How much longer will it be? What kind of difference will the vaccines make? Will they stop the fear? These are hard questions and need asking again and again. Our politics have divided us so deeply it is difficult to have these conversations. Christ lived in a time of terror and fear, as we learn from these Scripture lessons, but he became human to free us from death so we could live fully and without fear. HYMN INFO
I wrote this hymn and several like it for Holy Innocents Day after a mass shooting in a school. Jim Clemens set them. (For more information on him see HYMN 269). The Coventry Carol was written by Robert Croo in 1534 for the Coventry Christmas pageant which he directed for some years. It was in the section put on by the Shearmen and Tailors and performed on the steps of the cathedral. The song was sung by three women playing the mothers of Bethlehem during the Slaughter of the Innocents. After the Cathedral was destroyed by a bomb during WWII, a choir sang this from the ruins. LINKS Coventry Carol/King's College Choir
James E. Clemens music/lovely arrangement of Puer Nobis
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