Monastics may beg to differ from the mainstream Catholic choice for the number one Advent song or hymn, but there’s no question people expect “O Come O Come Emmanuel” every December. Music planners across the English-speaking world and elsewhere give it to them. Seeded as a number-12, the musical setting of the O Antiphons is appropriately a late Advent (17-24 December) choice, but most worshipers don’t seem too concerned with the distinction.
The wikipedia entry on the song/hymn gives some basic information, including the misty beginnings of the text and tune. But someone should clean up the messy details there. The tune is delightfully utilized by Ottorino Respighi, but as a meditation on the Botticelli painting Adoration of the Magi. As for the texts, this entry gives more informed facts. mainly that they are based on the Magnificat antiphons for Vespers for the final week of Advent.
One of the NPM poll’s top-20 choices was Donna Marie McGargill’s “Servant Song.” (Note: no “The” in the title.) I wasn’t familiar with this song until I served a parish that used OCP materials. And it was a favorite–a big favorite there. The composer herself on the effort (toward the end of a discussion thread about another “servant song.”):
I wrote it in the early 80′s and was part of an original record album I created in 1982 for my Servant Of Mary community which was then celebrating 750 year anniversary. The song ‘Servant Song’ from the album was then published in ’84 on the OCP Album JESUS LORD. I still prefer my version of it that can still be found on my cd LET IT BE DONE which can be purchased from our Motherhouse book store (www.osms.org).
I’m very moved that God took the weaknesses and problems that brought me to pray Servant Song into being, to enable others over the years to pray and ask the same universal question in the depths of their heart prayer. It speaks volumes to me that God continues to remind us that it is ‘in our weakness that we find our strengths.’ May each of you find the same in your own lives so that you may give witness to God with your seemingly low points and failures in life that enable us to survive and be the best we can be even with and because our lowliness before an every gracious and loving God. God’s goodness and great love be there for each of you.
I find it fascinating that so many contemporary favorites center on the theme of service, of the deep desire in believers, seekers, and even non-religious people, to give their lives, or some portion of them to God and in service to others. Many believers are also keenly aware of their own inadequacies. I’m not surprised that songs like Sr McGargill’s resonate so well with so many.
Here’s the poll: