Monday, November 2, 2009

A Little Something For My Christmas List ...

Dear Nina,
This book is dedicated to you because you are my goddaughter and godmothers are made to bring everything that there is about God to their godchildren as far as they are able.

Of course, you know the story of the boyhood of Christ in the Bible, the most beautiful story in the world. I have copied this music and painted these
pictures because they make it come real.

The music is called Gregorian music. It is the true music of the Church. It very nearly got lost and it pretty badly got spoiled and this is the reason why -

If you want to know, it is the reason why everything gets spoiled. It was pride that spoiled it. There came a time in the turning of this funny world when men became pompous (that time is called the Renaissance), when men went back to what the Greeks had done, and the Greeks were worshipers of the body. After that, Church music that you could sing and I could sing, and painting and architecture and all the beautiful things to do with God, lost their spirituality and
became humanistic. That is why a Fra Angelico Blessed Virgin looks to be a Heavenly Soul and the Boy is all pure and kingly, while a Raphael one is just a
good human mother with a good, fat baby boy.

Now the music again. That is why they wove patterns all around the simple music - because they thought it needed to be more grand. It was beautiful music but it all became so complicated that they had to have special singers to sing it and, just like the Raphael Madonnas, it became good, human music and gradually lost its spiritual quality. And it became so difficult that it moved upstairs into the organ loft and that is why you and I just sit downstairs and listen.

Gregorian music is not like the music you know ... It hasn't any chords and the words are very important. They can't be translated because translation makes the words get out of place. This music is like the flight of a bird - on important words, like God or Mary, it will rise and hover in the air a minute as though it were holding its breath - and then come quietly down and slip off peacefully before you know it.
Thus begins the opening letter from Auntie Lauren (Lauren Ford) to her goddaughter, Giannina in the book The Ageless Story. I read about this intriguing book on someone's blog (I'm sorry, but I've lost track of where) and requested it from interlibrary loan. In 1940 this book won a Caldecott Honor Award for it's beautiful illustrations, but it's the combination of the chant and these peaceful paintings that make it such a treasure!


Lucy said...

That's beautiful, MM!

Margaret Mary said...

The original price of the book: $2.50. Current price for a good condition copy on Amazon: $115! Somewhere out there are copies languishing away unappreciated though. I'm keeping my eyes open for this book and more by this author.

Lucy said...

Have you talked to Mary's Books? She's tracked down a few books for me, and with all her travels, she might come across a copy, especially if you don't have a deadline that you need it by.