Away In a Manger Heresy
  • Am I the only one who finds the second verse of "Away In a Manger" to be monophysite? Someone pointed out a couple years ago that "The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But Little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes" denies Christ's humanity. I (fortunately) have gotten around playing it for Mass this year, but I was just curious if anyone else has issues with it.
  • I don’t see it.
  • Can you elaborate? Perhaps it's because I'm not a theologian, but nothing about that line strikes me as anything other than a little poetic license.
  • Bobby Bolin
    Posts: 352
    Nope, no issues here.

    I think sometimes we go out of our way to find the wrong in something.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 104
    Do you hate "Baby, It's Cold Outside" too?
  • "NO CRYING HE MAKES" is a also a reference to the scripture where Jesus, the Lamb, is silent before his shearers. In no way does that verse even begin to hint at anything heretical, nor does the entire carol.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Babies vary, some are very placid. It is fruitless to try to enter the mind of the Christ Child, but it seems not unreasonable to suppose that he had confidence in his mother.
  • I think it's a very pretty tune. And that's about it! My 2¢

    Side Note: heresy is a prett-tty tough word to use to describe a child crying or chilling out in the cradle.
  • The person who pointed it out to me thought that the song was saying Jesus wasn't a real human baby because he didn't cry. It does seem to be a bit of a stretch, come to think of it.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • Some babies don’t really cry. My son was a much more serene baby than my daughter.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • Do you hate "Baby, It's Cold Outside" too?


    I do, and it has nothing to do with any controversies over the song. It's just sung so casually that it's incredibly dull to me.
  • Carol
    Posts: 342
    I don't get heresy from the lyrics either. I think unless children are singing it there are many better choices and it's just a bit "sappy" as my father would have said.
  • Yes, I agree it's a bit wrong: Jesus was fully human and human babies cry.

    I have less problems with the theology of it than with "Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb" from O Come / Adeste ...

    And I choose not to get any more bothered by it than by Amazing Grace. Life is too short, and I don't see that it will destroy anyone's faith.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    I don't see that it will destroy anyone's faith.


    Yah, I doubt anyone in the participating-group-congregation thinks about that lyric for much more than 6/10ths of a second, once or twice a year.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 770
    The lyric doesn't imply that he never cried. It it simply painting a picture of a peaceful moment when all was still and even the baby wasn't crying, which if anything would seem to imply that he did cry at other times more than the other conjecture.
  • Earl_Grey,
    Thank you, a very interesting point. I'm glad I didn't tell the choir director that I consider the carol to be heretical, because I have been very clearly proven wrong.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 705
    I have less problems with the theology of it than with "Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb"

    Not sure what's wrong with this one. Though not a literal translation of the Latin of the carol ("gestant puellae viscera" is closer to "the virgin bears him in her womb"), the thought comes from the Te Deum, "Tu ad liberándum susceptúrus hóminem, non horruísti Vírginis úterum" - "When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb."
  • I have ever thought 'lo, he abhors not the virgin's womb' to be a sublimely poetc expression.
    Only an Anglican could have conceived of so artful an English locution.
  • M. Jackson Osborn wrote: I have ever thought 'lo, he abhors not the virgin's womb' to be a sublimely poetic expression. Only an Anglican could have conceived of so artful an English locution.


    Is this “tongue in cheek” or are you being serious?

    You do realize those lines were written by a man who converted to the Catholic Church (from Anglicanism) and was later ordained a Catholic priest, correct?

    Serious question:

    Are you saying that in 1842 he could write nicely, but not after he converted three years later? Or are you suggesting that only those who subscribe to certain heresies can compose elegant English?

    For myself, I find both assertions absurd.

    Saint Thomas More, for example, wrote quite elegantly.
  • You intimate that those lines were penned by Newman. I believe that that is not correct. The Old Church English translation of Te Deum dates to Cranmer's time and may be, like much in the BCP, the work of Coverdale.
    Your chastisement for my hubristical syntax in praise of Anglican liturgical language is unkind. Seeing as how that same language is now indisputably Catholic, as any Ordinarian will tell you, it is small and thoughtless of you to pillory it. We all may be forgiven some degree of satisfaction with the finer things of our respective cultures. As for Thomas More, being an educated XVIth century Englishman he very well did write elegantly - in English. My fellow modern-day Catholics, whether American or British, do not write elegantly - nor, it would seem, do they intend to!
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • You intimate that those lines were penned by Newman. I believe that that is not correct. The Old Church English translation of Te Deum dates to Cranmer's time and may be, like much in the BCP, the work of Coverdale.


    I made no such statement!

    Unless I am very much mistaken, they were written by Frederick Oakeley (who wrote the line in 1842 and converted three years later). I am certainly not infallible, but I just checked with Google, and as far as I know, I'm correct in what I said.

    So many Anglicans followed Cardinal Newman into the True Faith—and if memory serves, Oakeley was one of them.

    Your chastisement for my hubristical syntax in praise of Anglican liturgical language is unkind. Seeing as how that same language is now indisputably Catholic, as any Ordinarian will tell you, it is small and thoughtless of you to pillory it. We all may be forgiven some degree of satisfaction with the finer things of our respective cultures.


    You misunderstood; correcting someone who makes a false statement has absolutely nothing to do with "being unkind" or "smallness." Full stop.

    More importantly, Anglicanism is not a “culture.”

    My post speaks for itself. If someone corrects me Re: Oakeley, I will gladly admit I was wrong.

    As for Thomas More, being an educated XVIth century Englishman, he very well did write elegantly - in English. Modern-day Catholics, whether American or British, do not write elegantly - nor, it would seem, do they intend to!


    I'm not even sure how to respond to such assertions, so let's just stick with the facts. Thomas More was not Anglican, yet wrote very well—as did many other English Catholics.
  • .
  • What is the meaning of this Yellow Square? (I believe I asked the same question years ago, but never got an answer.)
  • The current English BCP translation of Te Deum retains this translation from the 1662 and 1549 versions -' When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb'. This is the work of Cranmer, possibly Coverdale.

    Coincidentally, by design, or originally, Frederick Oakely made this near-identical translation in the 1840s of the XVIIIth century Latin Hymn, Adeste fideles -' God of God, Light of Light, Lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb'.

    Whether Oakely was consciously 'borrowing' the Prayer Book language we can only guess at. It is a certainty that he would have been well versed in Prayer Book language and may or may not consciously have borrowed these words for his translation. Whether he did or didn't alters nothing about the poetry of this language. It remains a beautiful, sensitive locution. (And, this stanza is the most profound of all the stanzas of this greatly favoured Christmas hymn.)
  • Maureen
    Posts: 641
    St. Ephrem and St. Augustine both loved to talk about the Christ Child as the silent infant, the silent Word, the singer of praise in all languages without using any utterance, and so on. Ephrem says that "His hidden silence roared" in the mind of the prophetess Anna.

    There's a fair amount of tradition that Jesus was an unusually wise and considerate baby, which makes sense for an unfallen human baby Who was also God. (And took after His mom.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    If we sing, "Away in a Manger," this year at Christmas - and there is no guarantee we will - it will be forgotten in less time than it took to sing it. The congregation will remember more of what they saw on their cell phones during the sermon than what was sung.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    I think the heresy in question would be docetism, and I agree that the carol hints at an absence of suffering in the Infant.

    Much better for my taste the words of St. John of the Cross: "In man, joy, in God, tears: things to one and the other usually so strange."

    But I don't abhor the carol for the hint of docetism but because it's silly. It's Silent Night without "Virgin" or O Magnum without anything left but the animals. It's not so much bad theology as no theology.

    Also, Luther wrote it.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 641
    Why would Jesus be suffering more than unfallen humans were meant to, as a baby, when He was already going to suffer as a man on the Cross -- and knew it?

    He was living on earth, having to breathe and eat and poop, and had a peasant lifestyle, and was not born into a high tech world. And He knows He is going to die betrayed and in pain. What more do you want from a kid, huh?

    Jesus cried when He needed to, but not when He didn't. Same thing is said about baby Mary. It is an unfallen thing, not even a God thing.

    This is right up there with all the people who freak at the doctrine that Mary suffered no labor pains, even though she already knew her Child was going to be the prophesied Suffering Servant, and she had that hanging over her head for His whole lifetime.

    Even Luther is occasionally in tune with tradition and doctrine.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    There's a fair amount of tradition that Jesus was an unusually wise and considerate baby,
    ...

    .....which usually led to the joke about the Dad who returns from work to his wife and 6 chilluns. She looks distraught and quite frazzled, there is the odor of burnt food lingering in the home, a couple of the kids are screeching....and she snaps at him at length about her situation. Whereupon he suggests that she should act more like the Mother of God, and she retorts that "Mother Mary only had ONE kid, and HE WAS PERFECT!"

    Not as funny in pixels as in real voice, eh?
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,502
    dad29

    There's a related joke parody of John 8:7[A] that involves a stone being thrown, to our Lord's consternation.
  • Whatever, heresy or not, docetism or monophysitism, it's a children's lullaby and not appropriate for Mass. Leave it to the little children's Nativity pageants, if you must have it, but could we please have some grown-up hymns for Mass?
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • Would you say the same of Once in royal David's city?
  • Would you say...
    Sorry, Schonbergian -
    I would allow 'Once in Royal David's City' because, though it was written for children some hundred and fifty or so years ago, it is, by today's standard of literacy, adult. No one writing children's songs today would compose such elegant and complex grammar for children, let alone adults. Further, I have experienced that many adults of today do not grasp the syntactical niceties of this song, particularly the sixth stanza. That this was written in Victorian times for children says much about the respective literacy of Victorians and modern children and adults. 'Once in Royal David's City' is not, technically, a hymn, for it isn't an act of praise directed toward God, but it does spell out theological niceties and praises the virtues of our Lord whilst encouraging us to follow his example. In this it is not unlike many sequences. Quite unlike 'Away in a Manger', it isn't that disgustingly saccharine, infantile pablum which pulls the strings of mawkish sentimentality so gushed over by so many people.

    (As for the original topic of this thread - 'Away in a Manger' is not heresy. While it expresses much that is pure speculation, it states nothing heterodox nor denies anything orthodox. It's unforgivable sin is that it is to music, to spiritual song, what Kinkaid is to art. As such, singing it at any formal ritual observance is absolutely inappropriate.)
  • JL
    Posts: 151
    Also, if you use CRADLE SONG instead of MUELLER, it's a much better song.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    The idea that Christ and his Mother were in peace after his birth may be a recollection of the dogma of Mary's virginitas in partu: that Christ's birth occurred in a miraculous way, leaving even his Mother's bodily integrity preserved intact.

    This is a point well attested among Church Fathers such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Leo; indirectly confirmed by the Council of Chalcedon (451), and directly by synods at Milan (393), Capua (392), and the Lateran (649), the last including an ex cathedra statement by Pope Martin I (DH 503).

    Since labor pains originated with the fall of man, it was fitting that the birth of Christ should take place without suffering and without the shedding of blood.

    Articles by biblical scholar Ignace de la Potterie, SJ in 1978 and following years note that two Scriptural passages allude to the lack of blood. First, in John 1:13, Christ was born "not of bloods" (ouk ex haimáton). And Luke 1:35 reads "tò gennómenon hágion kletesetai huiòs theoú": the one born holy will be called son of God. To have been born holy suggests no shedding of blood, which would have been a cause of ritual impurity.

    So the imagery of quiet and peace that appears in carols and in antiphons of the Church's liturgy would be a reflection not of heresy to be spurned, but of dogma to be accepted.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,620
    …the poor baby wakes…
    You mean I've only escaped the Spanish Inquisition so far because when I sing "Sleep in heavenly peace!" it's assumed I actually mean "[sleep on] in heavenly peace"?
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 937
    Thank you for mentioning that, chonak. I find it to be very consistent (even if many scholars and others disagree) that Mary would not have experienced labor pains, nor the pain of bodily death due to her being free from the stain of Original Sin. Some of those who argue against those points suggest that she would not be required to feel labor pains, nor to die in the way typical of humans, but that she chose to experience those pains in order to better unite herself to the suffering experienced by Our Savior. I think it's an interesting argument, though I don't know that it is possible to learn the answer with certainty while here on earth.
  • Whatever, heresy or not, docetism or monophysitism, it's a children's lullaby and not appropriate for Mass. Leave it to the little children's Nativity pageants, if you must have it, but could we please have some grown-up hymns for Mass?


    I actually like hymns that viscerally and verbally identify the singer with a child. Helps me to remember to be like one.

    "Stay by my cradle till morning is nigh" can be taken literally, of course, and then it is a lullaby. But this life is a dark night, we are frightened, helpless children, and our Father is standing over us and keeping us safe until Heaven's morning breaks.

    Which is how I've always heard it. But I guess my personal experience of the faith has always had that kiddish quality to it. Not that it's simplistic, exactly... I've read deeply into all kinds of theology and philosophy, and am enriched by them. But that the texts that impact me most deeply are those that resonate in this simple way.

    I'll never forget the ten-year-old girl in my children's choir at my last parish, who said the lines:

    "What may I say?
    Heaven was his home,
    But mine the tomb wherein He lay."

    made her cry. They have the same effect on me. Campbell is wonderful, and "Ad Cenam Agni Providi" is magnificent, but the text of similar meaning:

    "Mighty Victim from the sky,
    pow'rs of hell beneath Thee lie;
    death is conquered in the fight,
    Thou hast brought us life and light;"

    never manages that.

    I certainly would never advocate the primacy of the emotional over the rational, but where they are not opposed, it seems no sin to reinforce the rational with the emotional. "Worship", as Msgr. Wadsworth reflected at a retreat I attended last summer, can be an elusive value, and can often arrive unexpectedly in a humble vehicle.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 724
    The idea that Christ and his Mother were in peace after his birth...

    While I've gone back and forth on what type of "birthing" was had, even a natural birth can still have "peace" afterward.
    My sister and mom both mentioned how calm my newborn was, that afternoon that she was born, and that (this time around) I looked decently far-removed from the birthing process, and not at all that I might have gone through such "trauma" that day.

    My infant, thus far, only cries to tell me that she is hungry, or because she has a dirty diaper. Even her brothers' rough-housing, yelling, or crying doesn't usually make her cry. So, I don't see crying because of surrounding noise as a prerequisite for being human.

    It's a sweet song, but I agree that it isn't really a hymn for Mass. I could see it being sung by the youth schola as a prelude for Mass (even though asking for His guarding of the cradle whilst one or one's child sleeps makes it seem more like a postlude...).
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    The painlessness of the ever-virginal birth is related directly to a curse in Genesis from which our blessed Lady was exempt, thanks be to God. But this exemption is not some sort of blanket release from suffering of her and her divine Son.

    When cows wake up babies, babies often cry. That's not a sin, I think.
  • it's a children's lullaby and not appropriate for Mass. Leave it to the little children's Nativity pageants, if you must have it, but could we please have some grown-up hymns for Mass?

    Do little children not attend Mass where you come from?

    I absolutely agree that some of the hymn used (when hymns are used) should address worship God using adult sensibilities. But some need to use the language of people with less-than-adult faith development, too. I don't see AIAM as inappropriate for everyone.

    It's interesting that lots of you seem to have used Immaculate Mary for today's feast Masses: I'd think of it as even more childish.
    Thanked by 1NihilNominis
  • .
  • I'll just bump the idea that seemed to get lost in my Wall of Text above:

    I've never read the "stay by my cradle till morning is nigh" as necessarily literal. Not any more literal than "fast falls the eventide." Unless, like certain publishing houses, you are silly enough to put Abide with Me in the "evening hymns" section.
  • NihilNominis,

    You would put Abide with me in the Four Last Things section, I gather?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    As entertaining as this thread is, I have that sweet but melancholy thought again: What Would Melofluent Say?
  • The original question has the unmistakable savour of scrupulosity.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,965
    I think it's a scruple we would do well to employ more often.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 994
    The baby is sleeping! That is all.
  • Kathy,

    Do you mean that we should be more attentive to the words of any hymn (or anthem) proposed for use at Mass, or do you mean that the idea of using hymns (cue Jackson's caveat, which I acknowledge and share, about Ambrosian hymns and similar texts) should be examined more carefully because of the mine-field it presents? Or do you mean that most of the modern hymn editors should be consigned to have to endure each other's company, since they keep damaging otherwise beautiful texts and tunes.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Surely the Church requires that any text, including hymns, should be carefully scrutinised and if theologically satisfactory authorised by your Ordinary (or by some superior authority), before use at Mass?