The true story of ‘Silent Night’, in Faith and Freedom

In the latest issue of Faith and Freedom Andrew Page tells the true story of the famous carol Silent Night and gives a new and entirely faithful translation of the hymn.

Christmas Ballee Candlelight December 2009

Andrew Page writes:

“We are all familiar with Silent Night – or, at least, we think we are. We know the famous tune, we can recite the familiar English words, we might even know the tale of the church organ and the mice – whose supposed gnawing through the bellows necessitated the writing of a new carol played by guitar.

Familiarity, however, does not necessarily lend itself to understanding. To understand the meaning of Silent Night the first thing that must be done is to strip away the myths. Myths inevitably point us towards truth – real, deep and meaningful truths, that a mere retelling of the facts never could. However, when a mythologised version of events becomes widely accepted as historical truth, it must be challenged.

A myth is a story that never was, but always is. And so it is with the myth of Silent Night. The traditional story tells us of how hungry church mice had eaten a hole in the bellows of the church organ in Oberndorf. The damage was discovered in Christmas Eve, just a few hours before the young priest, Father Mohr, was due to lead Midnight Mass. Attempts were made to find a means of repairing the organ, but these efforts proved unsuccessful. As Mohr’s congregation would need something to sing, and with the organ out of commission, the priest was inspired by a pastoral visit he had carried out earlier in the day, to a mother and her sick baby. He penned the now world-famous words, and then ran to his friend Franz Gruber – a schoolmaster and organist – to ask him to quickly compose a tune. When a man arrived after Christmas to repair the organ, he was so impressed with the new composition that he passed it on to the Strasser family, a travelling group of musicians and singers very similar, I assume, to the Von Trapps of Sound of Music fame. The Strassers later published it and the rest is history.

Or is it?….”

From ‘The Story of Silent Night’ by Andrew Page published in Faith and Freedom, AUTUMN AND WINTER 2019 (Volume 72, Part 2) issue 189

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Faith and Freedom Cover 2019

Faith and Freedom, Autumn and Winter 2019

FAITH AND FREEDOM, AUTUMN AND WINTER 2019 (Volume 72, Part 2) issue 189 is now available

Articles include:

T.E. Lawrence and God by Howard Oliver

An engrossing study of the evolution of the religious thought of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), of one of the most enigmatic and complicated public figures of the twentieth century. (See above image of the memorial plaque to T. E. Lawrence, unveiled at the Oxford High School for Boys by Winston Churchill, 3rd October, 1936.)

 

The Story of Silent Night by Andrew Page

The true story of the transmission and translation of the famous carol Silent Night, uncovering its three ‘lost’ verses and giving an entirely new and faithful translation of the hymn first sung at the bicentenary service held last year in Cairo Street Unitarian Chapel Warrington..

 

Romantic Religion by Tim Clancy

What do we mean by God and how do we understand God. “In so far as we recognize God’s loving recognition of us, we come to participate ever more intimately and ever more fully in God’s own power, the power of being itself. In this way God can be said to actively relate to us without determining us.”

 

Barbara Ward and this Journal: ‘Faith and Freedom’ by Dan C. West

The writings of the late Barbara Ward which share similarities of ethos as well as of name with the journal.

 

In the Interim by Sue Norton

Exploring being in the interim.

 

Books reviewed:

Liberal faith beyond Utopian dreams

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Nancy McDonald Ladd, After the Good News: Progressive Faith Beyond Optimism, Skinner House Books, Boston 2019, pp 159, ISBN 978-1-55896-828-8.  $16.00 pbk.

Reviewed by Jim Corrigall

 

The 1960s – a new spirituality for a new world

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Sam Brewitt-Taylor, Christian Radicalism in the Church of England and the Invention of the British Sixties, 1957-1970; The Hope of a World Transformed, Oxford University Press, 2018 pp 272, ISBN 978-0-19-882700-9, £65, hbk.

Reviewed by Marcus Braybrooke

 

Climate Crisis – essential reading

Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, Pelican (2018), pp 465, ISBN: 978-0-241-28088-1, £8.99

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, Allen Lane (2019), pp 310, ISBN: 978-0-241-35521-3, £20.00

James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, Allen Lane (2019), pp 139, ISBN:  978-0-241-39936-1, £14.99

Reviewed by David A. Williams

 

Unitarians and Biblical revision

9780567673473

Alan H. Cadwallader The politics of the Revised Version: a tale of two New Testament revision companies, T & T Clark, 2019, pp. 224, ISBN: 978-0567673466, £85 hbk.

Reviewed by Andrew M. Hill

 

Clerical corruption in the Vatican

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Frederic Martel trans. Shaun Whiteside, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Bloomsbury, London, 2019, pp.570. ISBN 978-1472966148, £25, hbk.

Reviewed by Frank Walker

 

An annual subscription costs £15 (postage included). Contact the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
16 Fairfields, Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.  DN21 4GA.

It’s also possible to pay via PayPal via clicking here.

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com