Listening to Advent

When music can help us to pray

Advent begins. It is a period of preparation for Christmas, which, we as Christians, live with a spirit of expectation for the coming of the Lord. During this time, it helps me to pray by listening and meditating about some songs – simple Christmas jingles – that evoke the atmosphere of advent. I propose you three texts, which I believe can be a good gateway to experience the spiritual climate of the coming weeks.

Vuelves – “Come Back” – (2015) from the Spanish singer-songwriter Rozalén speaks about the time of the return and coming back: You come back / so unexpectedly you always come back / But as I had expected /  you come back / When I thought you forgot you always come back, you always come back. Time that takes shape in the verses that come to life in images: the water that evaporates, a coin thrown into the air, a smile that fades away, a leaf that fell and flew away, everything comes back. Rozalén’s words are reminiscent of Book of Ecclesiastes, a sapiential Biblical text: «Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course» (Ecc 1,4-6). Rozalén’s music and voice give warmth and depth to the theme of coming back, albeit with some nostalgia, but without turning off hope. It is just that: the song leaves us with Hope, a kind of spark of eternity. Only if it were God who returned or a loved one – his reflection – that had caused so much good.

We also find echoes of Book of Ecclesiastes in C’è tempo – “There’s Time” (2003) by Ivano Fossati: They say that there’s a time to plant seeds / And one that you want to wait for / A dreamt-of time that comes at night / And another on a tense day / Like flax waving in the breeze (see Ecc 3,2). A text that is a hymn to the time to live, to remember, to listen and at the same time a hymn to the same life that fills it. Time that knows how to be silent: And to know how to tell our children when / It’s the quiet hour of the fairies / There’s a day where we were lost / Like losing a ring in a field. However, it is a time full of hope and with space for the sky: There is a very beautiful time, everything well-earned / A season of rebelliousness / The instant in which the only arrow shoots, / That arrives at the heavenly time / And pierces the stars / It’s a day that all the people / Hold out their hand / It’s the very same instant for everyone / Let it be blessed, I believe / From far away. Fossati’s is a secular text in which there is space for the advent of a God who blesses from afar,and who makes us turn our eyes to the stars, in the certainty that there is time. Time repeats itself as though it were stubborn. It has the strength to convince people to live time in a less distracted way and more open to wonder. A piece to listen to in the Fossati version or in a duo with Fiorella Mannoia, or Marco Mengoni, accompanied by the brilliant sweetness of the piano and sumptuous orchestral inserts with a pop twist on the finish …

Finally, Carmen Consoli’s Guarda l’Alba – “Look At The Sunrise” (2010) brings us to the conclusion of this expectation: Christmas Day. The celebration is narrated with images and language that evoke its atmosphere: the fake beard, the table for lunch…  apparently superficial items that give space to more profound verses: how precious is your absence / in this happy occasion / in east the day is pawing, it will not be late  … Verses that disclose a certain theology of Christmas, made of bliss, the East – the cardinal point that is associated with the birth of Jesus – and the invitation to watch look at the sunrise that teaches us to smile, it almost seems that it invites us to be reborn, / all starts, / gets old, / changes, / creates, / the love changes all. An advent where the last word is love, a love that becomes new.

And this is what I mean by listening to Advent. It can be an opportunity to let oneself have a spiritual approach to these songs – trying to listen to them in a climate of prayer. Music that can give way to the expectation of a God who returns, who manifests himself, or simply makes himself present to our attention. After all, God is present whenever we make space for him – ear – in our history.

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