While reflecting on a recent encounter I was reminded of a seminar at the C.G. Jung Institute Boston on the Self as Paradox, and Jung’s observation that “the other is always present.” Recently some colleagues of mine and I stopped at our local pub one block away from the school where I worked. Over drinks we talked about the upcoming Christmas Show and the songs that the children were going to sing. One of the standard songs that the Early Childhood students (ages 3-5) is a popular song “Happy Birthday Jesus.” This version of the song is not set to the familiar tune. It is, to my ear, quite opposite. When I hear the version the young children sing I hear a strong hint of melancholy. Perhaps its the chordal structure that might stir a whiff of sadness, not overwhelming, but a subtle sadness that I connect with the Christian myth of the Divine Child.
Today, as I was reflecting on the upcoming performance, I remembered a traditional carol where the text includes a stanza that reflects both the joy and sorrow of the birth of Christ. The Infant King, a Basque carol I’ve sung for years as a chorister, is a lullaby, reminding the listener to sit quietly as the Holy Child sleeps. In the second and third stanzas the choir followed by the soprano soloist sings:
Lullaby baby, now a-sleeping,
Hush, do not wake the infant king.
Soon will come sorrow with the morning,
Soon will come bitter grief and weeping:
Lullaby baby, now a-dozing:
Hush, do not wake, the infant king.
Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing,
Then in the grave at last reposing:
At first listen, one might be tempted to turn from the brutality of the crucifixion and the contrasting image of a sweet baby sleeping. Yet in the Holy Child, lies a paradox, the sweet baby, who will be sacrificed years later, only to rise again in Eternal Form.
Lullaby! Is the baby awaking?
Hush do not stir the infant king.
Dreaming of Easter, gladsome morning,
Conquering death, its bondage breaking;
Keeping in mind Jung’s idea of the Self as paradox during this holiday season, we might think the Infant King understood what was in store for him. Perhaps as listeners, when we all understand that Joy and her sister Sorrow come to us hand in hand, we might be able to hold the paradox in mind that both exist together in the tender form of a baby, born long ago in a manger, thousands of years ago.
Rolando J Fuentes MSW is a Diploma Candidate at the C G Jung Institute Boston. He is in private private practice in Woodley Park where he sees individual adults, couples and families. His areas of interest are cross-cultural relationships. In addition, he consults with parent-infant/young child dyads.