The songs of Advent


As Christians, we believe that we are in the world but not of the world. However, straddling the two worlds is a challenge for many of us throughout life. Our consumer-driven society jump-starts our desire to purchase gifts for others and ourselves earlier each year with Christmas music that begins after Halloween, in some places. The secular season ends long before the Christmas season, which begins Christmas Day and concludes with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2022.


We embrace religious rather than secular music to transcend the world in which we live, to focus on what matters most, our union with our God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the musical tradition of the Church as a treasure of inestimable value because “as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy (No. 1156).” Our ongoing pandemic, with its protocols to protect congregations from COVID-19, may have caused us to appreciate more fully the role of sacred music in and outside of our churches. The Catechism observes, “He who sings prays twice.”

Father Jeffrey Kerby, CRUX digital magazine senior contributor, writes, Advent “is not a hope of merely changing the world around us, but a greater hope in the rejuvenating of souls and the welcoming of Jesus Christ into our hearts and into our world today. Advent reminds us that God has already overcome the world and that he is at work within us and around us” (Dec. 5, 2021).

It’s time to take countercultural measures. Tune out “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and tune in to Advent songs such as “On That Holy Mountain,” by Joe Mattingly, founder and director of the Newman Singers at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. The song is “based on the ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ passage from the book of Isaiah and is well suited for use during Advent as well as throughout the church year” (GIA Publications, Inc).


“On That Holy Mountain” is available on three different CDs, but the most appropriate for the Advent and Christmas seasons is “Awakenings.” Visit the Newman Center website Another popular song from the Newman Singers that is Advent-specific is “The King Shall Come.” It is available on the CD “Born This Night,” a Christmas-themed CD, which is also available on the website. Octavos for both songs are available.
Other selections to inspire anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ:

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” on the album “O Night Divine” by L’Angelus; “Holy is His Name,” on the album “Pathways of the Shepherd” by John Michael Talbot; “Christ Be Our Light,” by Bernadette Farrell; and “A Voice Cries Out,” by Father Michael Joncas. Trevor Thomson offers another setting of “The King Shall Come,” that may be familiar to Mass-goers. If you have a smartphone, use your search engine to find Advent songs. You can purchase Advent CDs at stores, on websites or through your favorite music app. You can listen to some of the songs on YouTube, as well.

After listening, consider turning to Scripture in prayer and reflection. Recall that a passage from the book of Isaiah inspired Mattingly’s “On That Holy Mountain.” The readings from Isaiah this Advent season stir our hearts with the theological virtue of hope so much needed in a time that seems far short of peaceable. We welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts through prayer and song, words and actions. Let us climb that holy mountain of the Lord.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on