O great mystery

Last week our choir sang Morten Lauridsen’s composition of O Magnum Mysterium. To say it was moving puts it lightly. It was ethereal.

O Magnum Mysterium is a chant from the Matins of Christmas 1, which is an Anglican service. The piece is in Latin:

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

The English translation:

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Have a listen:


For me, I found that as I looked out onto the congregation, I would be overcome with emotion. On the faces of many people, there was a combination of either tears, meditation, or pure joy. None of those emotions reflected our performance, but rather the power of the piece. It’s in times like these that I am so grateful to be singing in a choir that takes on such monumental pieces. I’m affected as much as the people we sing to.

Later this week, our choir director sent us all this email:

My dear friends,
I cannot begin to tell you how moved I was by your singing of O Magnum Mysterium this past Sunday morning. I will remember that time of worship for years to come. It is one thing to prepare and perform such a piece for a concert, quite another for a Sunday worship service. I am still astonished by your accomplishment.
I went up to my Prayer Perch in the mountains on Sunday afternoon and just thanked God over and over for each and every one of you. My heart is so full of gratitude for you.
I believe God was glorified and His people were deeply touched by what I can only describe as a profound moment of worship. Thank you, thank you!
With love and admiration,


  1. see Wiki article






One response to “O great mystery”

  1. Melissa Avatar

    We sang de Victoria’s version in college and I’ve loved it ever since.  I think you hit the nail on the head with describing the song and lyrics as “ethereal”

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