Monday, November 28, 2011

Veni: C'mon

Here's page one of a recent composition for oboe and organ. The title, Veni, is the Latin imperative meaning "Come." It is found in such expressions as Veni, veni, Emmanuel (familiarly known as O Come, etc.) and Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit).

Yes, it does look the same as the word Julius Caesar included in his terse description of his Gallic adventure--veni, vidi, vici--I came, I saw, I conquered--and some of you out there might actually like to write a hymn to him (et tu, Brute?) and call it "I came," but, regardless of whether or not anyone listening to this thinks it sounds like the chain-clank of Gallic POW's on parade, I am not that person.

Veni has the same root as "Advent," the season leading up to Christmas, which began yesterday. I was fortunate to be able to use the piece in an evensong service last evening at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bristol, VA. Many thanks to organist Stephanie Yoder for using it and for doing such a great job of interpreting it along with me.*

I highly recommend such a service to anyone for whom the rampant commercialism of Christmas has become a source of anxiety. One wonders if Julius Caesar, were he a present-day department store/bigbox/online uberretailing magnate, would apply his venividivici formula to the post-Labor Day calendar. So it's quite bracing to read, in the course of this kind of service, of the Lord's (in the mouth of the prophet Amos) condemnation of his erstwhile believers for, among other things, selling the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes. Christmas lights have a different kind of twinkle after you hear that kind of thing.

Somebody ran out of gas in my building parking lot today, a mother and her son in a beaten up van. She was sending him down the street with an empty gallon jug. As I walked by she was emptying her purse: a $1 bill and less than a buck in change. How much gas can that buy? I looked in my wallet. A ten. I was glad to let them have it. I don't know that, failing the gift, I would've been selling the poor for a pair of gallons of gas, but I can see the Lord's point of view.

It's worth asking for. Worth hoping for.

Come peace. Come justice. Come love. C'mon. Veni.

*Great, a footnote (see last post)! I also recorded a studio version of Veni at home and used a couple of days of post-Thanksgiving torpor to render a music video. While doing that, various children and nephews were exerting themselves on some hiphop stylings thanks to Wii; I collected their cartoon dance coaches. By some providential happenstance, the animated dancers strut their stuff to the same beat as Veni. Hmmm. Far be it from me, etc., even if one of them is wearing the devil's horns.

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