09 January 2011

No lasting city

While typing this, I received word that a friend of mine from high school passed away this morning from a brain aneurysm. I dedicate this post to Paul Pruszynski: May he rest in peace in that city which is to come (Hebrews 13:14; 12:22-24)

Over the Christmas season, I watched the film Joyeux Noël for the first time, and I liked it very much for various reasons. To give a brief & poor summary, it's about the 1914 Christmas truce during World War I, and how music transcends borders, focusing on the informal cease-fire negotiated between Scottish, French, and German soldiers in the trenches.

As with all things that are good and beautiful in this world, the music that leads to the temporary cessation of hostilities begins with the Scots. (Who in addition to bagpipes, have whiskey, beer, and kilts - all the necessaries for world peace.) So far as I've been able to find out, the song the Scots sing (itself a leitmotif throughout the film) is a poem written by one Lori Barth and set to music for the film. The poem is called "I'm Dreaming of Home," and so far as I can gather, the music it's set to is called "L'Hymne des Fraternisés" (which my limited nonextant French renders into English as "Hymn of Brotherhood"). It's a melancholic piece, and I believe you can find it on Youtube.
The lyrics run:

I hear the mountain birds
The sound of rivers singing
A song I've often heard
It flows through me now
So clear and so loud
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home.

It's carried in the air
The breeze of early morning
I see the land so fair
My heart opens wide
There's sadness inside
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home.

This is no foreign sky
I see no foreign light
But far away am I
From some peaceful land
I'm longing to stand
A hand in my hand
         forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home.

Now, the lyrics in & of themselves are alright - but what really does it in the film is the men huddled together for warmth in trenches of earth and wood under a cold winter's night sky, singing at the top of their lungs. Also, bagpipes. (Seriously, one of my favourite instruments for their evocative power.)

After having the tune stuck in my head some weeks, and the lyrics since Tuesday last, Friday I happened upon Hebrews 11:13-16:
"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city."
(Context makes it even sweeter: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who lived in tents, and who were "looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" {v.10} are verse thirteen's "These")

O, the explanation to the eternal longing, that 'satiable curtiosity of why I've never felt entirely accepted in any group on this earth. No matter how close we are, there's always something not-yet, awaiting perfection - some postlapsarian separation that even the most intimate of human relationships cannot overcome (c.f. I Corinthians 13:8-13).

I'm dreaming of home.

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