Arvo Pärt: The Deer’s Cry

 

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ in me,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me.

Attributed to St. Patrick, 385-461(translation by Kuno Meyer)

The coming of Patrick to Ireland about the middle of the fifth century initiated the “most peaceful invasion and lasting conquest of all”. This hymn is attributed to Patrick and certainly reflects many of the themes found in Patrick’s thought. The version we have today was likely written in the late 7th or early 8th century. The hymn is a celebration of the wisdom and power of God both in creation and redemption.  It is an excellent example of a lorica — a “breastplate” or corslet of faith recited for the protection of body and soul against all forms of evil — devils, vice, and the evil which humans perpetrate against one another.  The name of the hymn derives from a legend of an incident when the High King of Tara, Loeguire resolved to ambush and kill Patrick and his monks to prevent them from spreading the Christian faith in his kingdom.  As Patrick and his followers approached singing this hymn, the King and his men saw only a herd of wild deer and let them pass by.  The word ‘cry’ also has the sense of a prayer or petition.

From rc.net

Arvo Pärt: The Deer’s Cry

 

 

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in me, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me,

Christ with me

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The sacred Lorico or Deer’s Cry was composed by Saint Patrick in the year 433. Knowing of an ambush to kill him and his followers, St. Patrick led his men chanting it as they passed through a forest. They were transformed into a deer and twenty fawns, and thus St. Patrick and his men were saved. Pärt composed the work in 2007 and it was first performed in Louth the following year.

– 0 –

This is one of the most beautiful songs I know. And it reflects a common practice in several different spiritual traditions. For instance, both in Christianity and Buddhism, one of the basic practices is the visualization of Christ / Buddha above and below us, on either side, in the front and behind, and in the heart. And there is also the “walk in beauty” prayer attributed to the Navajo.

Björk interviews Arvo Pärt

 

Björk: There is question and answer, the different voices…. inside your music. It’s almost like Pinocchio and the little cricket. One is human and always making mistakes and pain, and the little cricket is more like…. comfort him, or tell him…. Do you feel this in your music, or maybe I imagine? 

Pärt: I am really happy that you talk about it, it is really so. This new style consist of two sides, so that one line is my sins and another line is forgiveness of these sins. Mostly the music has two voices. One is complicated and subjective, but another is very simple, clear and objective.

(more…)

Two lines

 

arvo-p-rt-001

One line is my sins, and another line is forgiveness for these sins. Mostly the music has two vocies. One is more complicated and subjective, but another is very simple, clear, and objective.
– Arvo Pärt, interviewed by Björk

A beautiful description of who and what we are. As who we are, this human self, we are complicated and subjective. We are conditioned in a particular way, experience life through our own set of filters. As what we are, we are simple, clear, objective. Either one is beautiful, and the real beauty comes from both together, from one existing within the context of the other. 

As a human self, I sin. I make mistakes. I am confused. I am not aware of the impact of my actions in the world. 

As what I am, there is already forgiveness. 

And all of that is reflected in Arvo Pärt’s music, in a beautiful way.

The fertile void and Arvo Pärt

 

During the initial diksha, empty light dropped into my body and stayed there, as present and clear now as then. During the Enlovenment diksha last weekend, full darkness dropped into the body, and seems as stable as the empty light. There is a beautiful symmetry there, as with so much else.

I have been drawn to Arvo Pärt‘s music again for the last week or so. It seems that the fertile void and the empty light are both there in his music, the velvety blackness and the clear luminosity.

For me, this is most clearly expressed in Passio, Misrere, Te Deum, Arbos and Tabula Rasa (the ECM recordings.)

And this is also a reminder of how deeply I was into this during the initial awakening (into the luminosity and the fertile void, during my time in Norway, immersed in Pärt’s music, in Orthodox music in general, being a student of Odd Nerdrum, and much more that all combine this sense of black and full earthiness with luminosity and clarity.)

It may be that this is not so new after all. One of the main differences is that then, it all came at once, and now, it comes spaced out more. Then, it just happened, out of the blue, all at once, with a great deal of intensity, and a sense of it being remarkable. Now, it comes in a different way, more spaced out, with less intensity, and as less remarkable.

Music and prayer

 

As with just about anything else, my draw to food, movies and music goes through the usual fractal cycles (longer cycles over years, seasons, months and weeks, with short cycles overlaid going over weeks, days and hours).

So my music listening goes from 60s lounge to baroque (Bach, Marin Marais) to world (Mari Boine, Carlos Nakai, Hun Huur Tu, Yossou N’Dour), to renaissance (Palestrina, Victoria) to pop (Sting, Kate Bush, Stereolab) to religious (Rachmaninov’s Vesper, Sister Marie Keyrouz, Russian Orthodox) to folk music (Agnes Buen Garnås) to contemporary (Jan Garbarek, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Arvo Pärt) to romatic (Shubert) to other genres.

Music as prayer

This weekend, I got into an Arvo Pärt phase, and am reminded of music as prayer.

His compositions, such as Passio, Arbos, Tablua Rasa, Te Deum and others, are prayer in the form of music, and they resonate with and awaken prayer in the (receptive) listener. Wherever our center of gravity is, the music closely mirrors, reflects and awakens our relation with Spirit as a Thou.

For me, listening to Pärt brings me right into the deep, full, rich and all-pervading sense of mystery, awe, unspeakable beauty, longing, pain, passion, joy, bliss, and disappearing of any separate I as any heart-centered and deeply felt prayer do, such as the heart prayer and Christ meditation.

While our center of gravity is still in a segment of the totality, prayer in any form – including music, can help us shift out of it and taste selflessness.

And after the awakening to selflessness, prayer and music can awaken the same sense of awe, beauty, longing, pain, joy and bliss, and work in and throughout our human self, allowing it to mature, deepen, become even more of a vehicle for Spirit-awake-to-itself in the world of phenomena.