Published December 22, 2005
Some great Hollywood pictures are identified as much by their soundtrack as they are for their storyline. A movie famously linked to Atlanta is the epic “Gone with the Wind”! Tara’s theme conjures up the tragic events that are portrayed in this now famous Hollywood saga. Then there are the themes for “The Godfather,” “The Pink Panther” and dozens of other movies where simply hearing the music allows us to remember the story.
Christmas carols tell the story of the Birth of the Lord Jesus in ways that always seem to bring the human heart back to our childhood. We all recall carols that we learned as children, carols that remind us of Christmases past, carols that reveal the Mystery of God becoming Man in powerful ways beyond mere words. Christmas carols unite us across the lines of the cultural heritages that gave birth to the carol. Thus German, French, British and Italian Christmas carols are joined to African-American and Mexican songs that all tell the same tale of God’s great love for humanity in sending us His own Son as an Infant Boy born in the midst of poverty on a night that heralded the dawn of a new creation.
The songs of Christmas are very much a part of the season—even for those who are not regular churchgoers. Just listening to these carols often puts us into the spirit of Christmas. One cannot grasp the full meaning of Christmas simply by listening to carols any more than we could fully appreciate a movie with just the soundtrack. Nonetheless, music does have the capacity to touch the human heart in wondrous ways, well beyond the simple spoken word.
Last week, local Catholics and Jews shared some of our sacred music as a sign and as an expression of the bonds that we hope will bring us greater understanding and harmony. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the issuance of “Nostrae Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council document that heralded a new moment of hope for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue and conversation. This special event included an afternoon symposium on the ongoing challenges that we face as Christians and Jews in deepening our understanding of and respect for one another. Then the evening brought a splendid musical program of Christian and Jewish music sung by a mixed choir of Catholics from our Cathedral choirs and the Archbishop Lyke Choir and the choir from The Temple here in Buckhead. The music was spectacular, as the assembly of nearly 500 people attested by their standing ovation at the conclusion of the program. I express my sincere gratitude to all those from the Archdiocese of Atlanta who worked together with our Jewish neighbors and friends to plan and to achieve this event.
Last Saturday evening the Cathedral of Christ the King welcomed the traditional “Lessons and Carols” service, which combined Scripture and music to prepare us for the final week of the Advent season. The texts and the songs told the story of anticipation that is growing ever stronger in our hearts as we await God’s Mercy made Flesh.
My prayer for you, Dear Brothers and Sisters, is that as we all sing the songs that remind us of God’s Great Gift, we will carry the spirit and the deep meaning of Christmas into a New Year of Hope and Peace for all those that we love and for all those that need our love. Merry Christmas to the members of the Catholic Church in North Georgia!