O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger! Blessed is the virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord, Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
Written as part of the ancient monastic nighttime liturgy for Christmas, this classic hymn is traditionally performed in its original Latin. There have been many musical settings of the responsorial chant. And it is quite often included in Lessons and Carols services.
It’s verses share the story of the nativity with a special focus on his mother Mary. Coming out of the Catholic tradition, you can hear her legendary presence intertwined throughout the song.
What is most helpful about this carol is that it draws our attention to the great mystery that is the Christ-child’s birth into this world. We often forget that God miraculously took on flesh as a human child – something we will never be able to fully explain. What is more, it is a wonder that the God of the universe would choose to do something like this. Remembering this mystery can make the Nativity story even more awe-inspiring.