A little ecumenical envy

by Kevin Birnbaum

A_Festival_of_Nine_Lessons_and_CarolsChristmas Eve is just one week away, which means it’s almost time for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, which is broadcast around the world each Christmas Eve. It’s a beautiful service of choral music and readings from Genesis, Isaiah, and the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John. It’s almost enough to make me wish I was Anglican. The past few days I’ve been listening to a recording of the service from the 1990s, and it’s just wonderful. The carols are selected to provide commentary on the readings, and the singing is first-rate. I think my favorite piece is Boris Ord’s setting of the 15th-century Middle English text “Adam lay ybounden,” which explores the fascinating concept of felix culpa (happy fault, or fortunate fall), the idea that we’re actually better off for Adam’s fall. It’s the same idea proclaimed in the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil: “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”

Anyway, here’s a nice video about the service, which you should be sure to listen to: