There are three scenes in the tableau section in the first half of the Feast. These are:
- The Annunciation
- The Birth
- The Proclamation to the Shepherds
or something like that.
For the birth, the music is O Magnum Mysterium by Francis Poulenc.
The text is from a responsory for Christmas Day (from what I can find of it on the web). In short, it means,
“O great mystery and wonderful sacrament that animals see the Lord born and lying in a manger. Blessed Virgin, whose womb was worthy to bear Christ Jesus.”
The music itself is what makes this particular piece for me: it’s dark and mysterious. It is a mystery to the world why it’s creator would be born in such a backwards way. We have a tendency to fit the birth of Jesus into our own ideas of what it should like, but in so doing we risk losing that mystery and in turn the chance to seek an answer to it and find something even greater than a spectacular birth.
The answer, I think, comes in the next song.