The tenth song of Christmas: Annunciation enunciation

Growing up Catholic in non-Catholic schools in the South, I heard all of the comments. Their families are huge! Their kids go to “Sunday school” on Wednesday afternoons! They have saints! They. Worship. MARY!

That last bit isn’t true, by the way. Catholics do not “worship” a mortal. I mean sure, I’ve said more than a few “Hail Mary”s in my life, but it was never about deifying her. Catholics just happen to think of her as special, to the point of celebrating the Annunciation — the moment when Gabriel delivered that whole “You’re gonna give birth to a savior” message to her. They merely believe in paying respect to the woman who was chosen for that arguably intense job.

Fast forward a millennium or so past that moment in the Bible, and the Basques decided to write a carol about it. I guess technically, the carol was about both the Annunciation and the Magnificat — Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Regardless, its lyrics were inspired by two nearly adjacent passages in the Book of Luke. This thing is holy, okay? It’s treated with great veneration. I’m not sure if it went by the same title when it was first penned (or quilled, as the case may be), but in contemporary texts, it’s a folk carol known as “Gabriel’s Message.” And it’s serious, solemn stuff — as intoxicating and zesty as a bottle of Basque wine.

Sting recorded a version, and gave it every bit of zest and solemnity he had. As a result, it’s a thing of beauty. He harmonizes with himself, sings backup vocals to his lead, and proclaims the Word as clearly and respectfully as any priest could intone it. I doubt a choir of actual angels singing would sound as dignified and earnest as “Gabriel’s Message.” Basque it up.


Lyrics:

The angel Gabriel from Heaven came,
His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame.
“All hail,” said he, “thou holy maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be.
All generations laud and honor thee.
Thy Son shall be Emmanuel by seers foretold.
Most highly favored lady.” Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head.
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said.
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel the Christ was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn.
And everyone throughout the world will ever say,
“Most highly favored lady, Gloria!”


Stocking stuffers:


Day 11:

Miller’s tale

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About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at www.danbain.net; thanks!
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