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200th anniversary of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’

Posted December. 23, 2017 07:36,   

Updated December. 23, 2017 08:25

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These days just ahead of Christmas, Salzburg, the Australian city of music, is already busy with promotion of events scheduled next year, which marks the 200th anniversary of the Christmas song “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The song was sung for the first time in 1818 at St. Nicholas Cathedral in the small village of Oberndorf, located about 20 kilometers from Salzburg. The lyrics of the song were written by Catholic priest Josephus Mohr at the cathedral to describe the feelings that he had on Christmas days, while the melody was composed by Franz Gruber, an elementary music teacher who performed the organ in the cathedral.

It is known that Jesus Christ was born in a small village called Bethlehem near Jerusalem. Since U.S. President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, strong opposition has erupted particularly from Palestine as the focal point. The United Nations General Assembly stated on Thursday, “Any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” Jerusalem is a unique city that is a holy land for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is an extraordinary paradox that a religious holy site is the biggest cause of conflict among religions, which runs counter to the very ideal of religion.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Reformation led by Martin Luther was a revolution that dumped the concept of holiness. There is no longer a holy man or holy land. Everybody is a holy man and every place is a sacred land. Everyone is a chief priest, and everywhere there is a congregation of followers can be a church. Such an idea and belief brought about the Enlightenment of the modern era and democracy of the contemporary age. Classifying a certain area as a holy land and getting blindly obsessed with it is neither protestant nor Christian ultimately. Even if we ask Martin Luther, he would answer that the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution that has left the Jerusalem issue undecided is the right decision.

“Silent Night, Holy Night” is a simple song, which would be played at a cathedral in a small village. The score written in person by Gruber shows that the song requires “singing a duet” by soprano and alto along with guitar performance. In the very first performance, priest Mohr reportedly played the soprano part while performing the guitar, and Gruber sang the alto. We can hardly imagine how beautiful the song would have been when it was streaming at night in the snow-covered village. It would be great that recovery of such simple peace constitutes the spirit of Christmas.