Responding to the Mass of Holy Family Sunday (1st Sunday of Christmas)

L’Enfance du Christ, a choral work by Hector Berlioz, , explores events in the Infancy Narratives related by Matthew. It takes us from the persecution by Herod, through the flight into Egypt and the Holy Family’s sojourn there.

A full account of the work and its theology is available in a booklet put on line by Chandos.

Probably the most famous section of the work is ‘The farewell of the Shepherds‘ which beautifully, simply, and even somewhat playfully, draws us into contemplation of the beauty of Christ and evokes a trust in his goodness.

The last of the three sections of the work sees the life of Jesus and his family put in jeopardy by the event of their exile and rejection by Egyptians. Yet they find safety through the hospitality of an Ishmaelite – (the line from which Muslims claim a spiritual descent).

A restful hour or so listening to the piece gives an opportunity to listen to some haunting music, and to ponder both the challenges and graces of life in this world.

Photograph (c) 2007, Allen Morris. Fresco in Church of Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem.

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