Monday, December 19, 2005

"Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe."

So last night while Krista was diligently studying for her last final exam (this morning), I went over to our friend David's. In addition to being a dedicated scholar, curator, and beard-owner, he is also an astonishingly generous friend. During our wedding celebrations, he and Anna hosted our rehearsal party for our family & friends in their beautiful back garden. It was lovely. I owe a lot to David, as he offered me the job that brought me to Edmonton, and that set in motion a whole lot of other good things... like, oh, meeting my wife. So last night he gave me a mandarin orange and some green tea, and we were talking about some educational plans for the parish, as Fr. Dennis has asked David to offer some coordination this area, and I'm lending a bit of a hand. It should be fun, we're thinking of some "patristics for the people" kinds of things...

But then, before I left, he said, "Oh you've got to listen to this..." And he played me Arvo Part's superb choral meditation on Luke's genealogy of Jesus Christ called "Which was the son of..."
It's a sort of musical Jesse Tree. Lush and incredible and perfect, and more universal in scope than Matthew's list. Luke goes back to Adam. So fitting for yesterday, which, according to the Orthodox Church (which Part, David, and myself all belong to) is the Sunday commemorating the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Our good friend Micah gave us this Arvo Part recording last year, so it was great to share it with David.

And this, naturally, got me thinking of other art related to the astonishing, crazy, beauty that we Christians call the incarnation. Breathtaking. Niagara Falls in a thimble. One of my favourite's is from a 1991 recording by good ole' Bruce Cockburn....and, since this post is dedicated to men with serious whiskers, here's an old shot of Bruce.

Cry Of A Tiny Babe
Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph gets upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme
"Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been? - but I wasn't anyway and guess whatI felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
'Cause the governing body of the whole land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you've got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

- Bruce Cockburn, "Nothing But A Burning Light," 1991


Blogger Gabe said...

Good post Matthew. All the goods: The Bible, Bruce Cockburn, and awesome beards ;)

4:24 PM  
Blogger Rainey said...

I'll have to check that album out

5:15 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

What a great chorus to that song. Thanks for posting it!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Simply Victoria said...

i love that song. i have his christmas album, it's not as old, but it's such a shame that that song is not on it!

10:57 AM  
Blogger kimberley said...

much to think about.

10:50 AM  
Blogger MatJenny said...

Ah yes -- one of my favourite Christmas songs by one of my VERY favourite artists. I actually didn't hear it until I had already been a fan for years -- the Fordham University radio station in NY, WFUV, to which we were addicted (it was pretty much on in our seminary apt 16 hours a day for three years) played a LOT of Cockburn and although I had been listening to Cockburn since (literally) I was born that one had escaped me. Anyway, suffice to say that it reminds me of seminary, New York, Ella's birth -- lots of good, intense stuff. Vic Jordan put a great version with Lou Reed (!) on a cd for us last year (which we are listening to tons -- thanks Vic!)
Anyway thanks. BTW, have you ever seen the monastic injunction against 'beard envy'? I don't know where to find it but an aged archimandrite friend in Edinburgh, Fr John Maitland Moir, told us about it. I guess monks have their own struggles, and beard envy is one of them :-)

11:04 AM  
Blogger Simply Victoria said...

LOL. beard envy. hahahaha. shouldn't laugh, I guess, my #1 vice of choice is procrastination, but beard envy is just so much more interesting. ahhh, still laughing...

11:19 AM  
Blogger kimberley said...

that was such a beautiful evening, in david and anna's backyard.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Sheri Eyre said...

I love that phrase "surface of time" As if creation is a stone dropped in the ocean and the ripples go on outward

12:48 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Beard envy! That's hilarious, although I see how it could become a problem.

David always says he was born with that beard, and his father beamed with pride at the sight!

It was funny for me when I was helping Heiko Schlieper, the iconographer, and he showed me all the old painters manuals - Dionysius of Fourna, and the Stroganov Poddlinik and all those, how they described the beard of each bearded saint... Some are round, some are pointy, some are forked, and some are wild and jagged.

But nowhere in the manuals did I see anything like at the "world beard championships." Now THAT's innovation!

12:52 PM  
Blogger matthew christopher davidson said...

I first heard that song 9 years ago, when I was asked to accompany a friend on a Sunday morning at the Vineyard church, where I was attending at the time. He played guitar and sang...I was just the dumb keyboard player in the band, doing the Hammond parts.

I have never understood the logic of beards. Beards do not insulate faces very well at all. They are a liability in combat, which is why soldiers have traditionally been required to shave them.

Furthermore, bits of things can get stuck in them and make the wearer look silly. Imagine the Metropolitan Bloom with a massive chunk of cake stuck in his mane. Now, with that picture in your mind's eye, mouth the words, "Master, bless!"

1:03 AM  
Blogger gabriel said...

Wonderful song! The music almost equals the lyrics, I would say.

12:36 AM  

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