I adore Christmas carols. I would listen to and sing them all year long if I could, except for the certainty of death or dismemberment at the hands of others. How can people get sick of Christmas carols? How?
For this month's "hymn old and new," I'm highlighting one of my favourite carols, Gabriel's Message. Originally an ancient Basque folk song, it was translated into English in the Victorian era by Sabine Baring-Gould, the British composer of Onward, Christian Soldiers. It enjoyed some popularity but faded into obscurity in the 20th century. Then Sting recorded it on an album almost 30 years ago and his revival of the song caused it to build a new fanbase in our times. Thank you, Sting!
This video of Gabriel's Message by Jars of Clay displays the lyrics for easy reading and, best of all, has quite a nice zippy tempo. Enjoy!
I love this carol because it praises the Divine Feminine in Her Christian guise as the Virgin Mary. Christianity reduced the ancient Goddess archetype to a subordinate role and a restricted scope in its patriarchal mythology, but She still has a crucial part to play. And, of course, devotion to Her by ordinary Christians far exceeds each and every narrow boundary placed around Her by the Church.
In the lyrics, I especially like the fabulous imagery of the first verse's phrase: "his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame!" Yowza! Contradictory, paradoxical, powerful, pure. Just what you want in a Messenger of the Divine. Sounds like Gabriel rocks.
And if you want to hear this beautiful carol in its original Basque tongue and bouncy dance tempo, check out this recent post by Willym over at Will He or Won't He? It also includes lots more fascinating info and a nice Celtic rendition as well. I'm glad we both love this carol, Will!