The song below is typical of the Irish tradition of reflection on the passion, which takes the little crowd at the foot of the Cross – and especially Christ’s Mother – as our eyes and ears on Calvary.
The singer of this sean nós sings as Mary, or rather, as the three Marys at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). Christ is so bruised that he is hardly recognisable:
Is this the little son nourished at Mary’s breast […]
And is this the little son I bore for three seasons?
We see Christ through the teared-up eyes of his mother, as the tenderness of Bethlehem meets the violence of Golgotha:
Is this the little son born in the stable […]
My son, my darling, your nose and little mouth are cut.
Throughout the song, the mournful refrain (or ‘keen’) is repeated, and its agonised syllables give musical form to the Good Friday anguish of every Christian generation. Together these assembled generations stand at Calvary, side by side with the three Marys, gazing at the Cross in Good Friday shock: óchón agus óchón ó…
This Holy Week, let us stand, sing, and grieve with them.
[The version of Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire in the video above is taken from Hymns of Passion and Resurrection, the inaugural album of the ‘Céli Dé Collective’, under the guidance of a Dominican friar of the Irish Province. The album is due to be released on 12 April, and can be bought in record stores (Ireland), online at www.celide.ie, and on iTunes.]