We are pleased to present the Fall 2016 issue of The Yale ISM Review. Published by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, the Review is an open-access online publication serving practitioners in the fields of sacred music, worship, and the related arts. You are invited to join us for stimulating discussions, enriched by contributions from Yale faculty and others who are leaders in their fields.
This issue of the Review is organized around the theme of Christmas. The first section begins with an essay by Markus Rathey, who explores the riches of Bach’s musical-theological synthesis in his Christmas Oratorio. Felicity Harley-McGowan and Andrew McGowan trace the origins of the liturgical feast of Christmas and discuss the development of the iconography of Christ’s birth in ancient Christian art. The visual feature that follows gives us a closer look at some of the splendid mosaics of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo that are discussed in their essay. Finally, Wendy Farley’s lyrical reflection on the meaning of the Incarnation weaves together current events, scripture, and hymns to make a powerful statement about what is at stake in our observance of Christmas today.
Our second section is devoted to how we keep the feast. It opens with an essay by Nicholas Denysenko discussing the relationship between Orthodox liturgical hymns and popular carols. Christmas is a celebration of “joy and light,” linking home and church observances. Susan Roll picks up on a darker theme, raising the challenge of how we can celebrate Christmas today in a violent world; she draws our attention to the earliest extant Christmas sermon, which takes as its text Matthew’s terrifying account of the Massacre of the Innocents. Bruce Gordon dispels the myth of Calvin as the Reformation figure who rejected Christmas on religious grounds, and explains what actually happened. And Oana Marian takes us on a personal and literary journey that reaches its destination at a Christmas hearth.
In “One Final Note” Guy Irwin invites us to consider the relationship of Christmas to the Crucifixion—a connection too often overlooked or forgotten. He writes: “From the grotto to the hill, from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, from swaddling cloths to a seamless garment, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem: Jesus and Mary move through Jesus’s life with the inexorability and gravity of a liturgical procession. And we move with them, from Christmas to Easter, every year.”