O Magnum Mysterium

Things have been a little chaotic for me this Advent. I spent a week and a half in Peru, have been sick off and on, and our partner church here doesn’t really celebrate the season. So I’ve been more or less left to my own devices, with the help of devotionals from McCormick seminary and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and an Advent wreath I put on the windowsill. I’ve enjoyed sharing with Bolivian friends, asking about their plans and traditions for celebrating Christmas and the meaning of the season. I’ve been thinking about and listening to and singing the music that carries so much of the meaning of this sacred time for me. And I finally feel more or less ready, if such a thing is possible, to experience the miracle of Christmas once again. Perhaps it would be more true to say that I am keenly aware of my deep need and longing for a renewed connection to the mystery of the Incarnation.

I was reminded a few days ago of the wondrously beautiful setting of “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen. I have had the joy of singing the solo arrangement of this piece at my home church on Christmas Eve in the past, and I want to bring it to your attention here as something of a Christmas gift.

To me, this old text, in this new setting, expresses something of the glorious, joyful mystery of the Incarnation, of drawing near to the transcendent God. God born in flesh and bone, to be the bread of life. God who would laugh and cry and teach and admonish, and take part in all the pain of the good creation. God who would ache with redeeming love, made dependent on the care of a human mother. God born among animals, laid in a feeding trough, radical gift of love to all the world.

May the wonder of this great mystery
be born in your heart and transform your life anew this day.

Merry Christmas!


O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.


About Sarah

I serve with Presbyterian World Mission as liaison to the Andean region. This blog is a place to share stories, experiences, and observations, both my own and those of friends and colleagues and the occasional item of news.
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3 Responses to O Magnum Mysterium

  1. Areta Crowell says:

    I have it by my desk for regular listening – so pleased you put it into your note! Yes – it is hard to get in the real spirit- and this helps – I love to sit quietly by the tree listening to this, Messiah, and other music from the English choir schools!
    May joy and peace be yours! Love, Areta

  2. Linda Eastwood says:

    Thanks! I’ve sung this with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, and I absolutely love it. I was so happy to be reminded of it this Christmas Eve. Blessings for your Bolivian Christmas. Love and hugs, Linda.

  3. Sarah says:

    I had fun at church learning new versions of Spanish translations of familiar carols–I particularly enjoyed teaching the congregation Go, Tell It On the Mountain! Love and peace to you!

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