Huron Carol: Redux

Thanks to Wayne Holst for this thoughtful piece from the United Church Observer on the Huron Carol (National Treasure #126) and its complicated provenance and meaning.

The writing of Jesous Ahatonnia, as with all de Brébeuf’s work in North America, followed the Jesuits’ particular missionary strategy: full immersion into the culture of the targeted community — including adopting its language and customs — in order to earn people’s trust and convert them. “Thus after gaining [a potential convert’s] confidence we shall meet with better success,” wrote Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola. “In this sense we enter his door with him, but we come out our own.”


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6 Responses to Huron Carol: Redux

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Yes, I read that piece in The Observer.

    Even though I understand the historical value of that carol, I still have never cared for it, and still don’t. I just find it doleful. I didn’t ever use it unless it was specifically requested by someone.

    Although, to each their own I guess. Way back in 1973, I used “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as an Advent hymn. I was on a three church pastoral charge at the time. One man in the third church said after church, “If you ever use that hymn again, I won’t come anymore.” I did use it…he still didn’t like it…but didn’t leave.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Music appreciation is largely emotional, yes? In songs, the combination of lyrics and music can be a double whammy, for good or for ill, depending on how it strikes you. I can’t stand MacArthur Park, but know perfectly reasonable (and more musically literate) people who really like it. So yes, to each their own. As for church music, a wide range is my preference, since you can’t please all the people all the time. Glad your disaffected worshipper didn’t cut and run.

  2. Margaret Molls says:

    I like The Huron Carol. Each and every culture/civilization expresses its beliefs in ways best known to them. I appreciate this. It helps me understand better the culture.

  3. Let’s not forget how many of those Jesuits paid for their devotion with their lives. Their qualities were sufficiently attractive to the Iroquois that they sought to emulate them by literally devouring them. The cultural exchange was not one-sided, either. Early on, the French, especially, embraced aspects of Aboriginal culture including Native women as wives. If there is one memorable idea in the Huron Carol it is that the God recognized by the Hurons and the God recognized by the Jesuits are perfectly conflated.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Regarding the two Gods-as-understood being conflated, I remember teaching a class in business in which I brought in an occasional lateral-thinking exercise. One day I asked them for their images or metaphors of God. One student asked me whether I meant “the real God,” and I admit I had no idea how to answer that question!

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