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A Vedic Take on the Lyrics of "O Holy Night"

The first song ever broadcast over radio, the Christmas hymn, O Holy Night, has an origin story that is hard to pin down. Disagreements and contradictions abound, as do bold fabrications and embellishments. To me, this is far more intriguing than it is frustrating. What it tells me is that this song over the last hundred and eighty years has gained a status that relatively few songs or stories in our collective get to claim. It is legendary to the point of having its own mythos to be argued over, discussed and discerned.

And why shouldn't it? It does something that only some songs or stories do; regardless of one's religious or non-religious inclinations, this song speaks directly to a deep layer of consciousness, a layer which, when accessed, has the potential to awaken an individual to their own Cosmic status.

Please enjoy this Vedic analysis of O Holy Night.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;

The hymn begins with an open vowel sound not unlike the first part of the symmetry-breaking sound, Aum. "O," expressive of awe, wonder, and the nearly ineffable quality of this particular night. But the next words do come and they are:

1. holy- sacred

2. night- in this context, evocative of stillness, quiet, sleepiness, hushed, mystery, the kind of darkness that inspires wonder rather than fear.

Right away it is established that it is a sacred night and that the stars are brightly shining. In Vedic literature, stars, constellations, they have personalities and are deeply invested in what is happening on the human layer. These "shining ones" are Devas anticipating a turning point for humankind.

it is the night of our dear savior's birth.

This line tells us why this night is holy and is noticeably in the present tense. Once upon a layer of consciousness a savior is born. "Our" is inclusive of the whole collective; "our" implies unity.

The "dear" before savior is reminiscent of the Sanskrit sound "Sri" expressive of Supreme adorability.

A savior being born on Earth to essentially "save" humankind is a theme we see in Vedic literature again and again the most widely known example being Sri Krishna who is an incarnation of Vishnu born to restore balance and usher in a new era.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Speaking of restoring balance, this brilliant line contains an entire universe within it. It establishes a status quo in which the world of humans is in a long period of stagnation where ignorance and mistaken intellect create a yearning, a desperation for something "out there" to give their lives meaning.

'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Capital "H" He appeared: One way of looking at this is that the soul (jiva) makes contact with Brahman (Totality), or individuality makes contact with Universality and recognizes its value, its worthiness, on a feeling level. So beautiful! This is what we do when we practice meditation. Turns out that what was being pined for wasn't "out there" after all. It was "in here" all along.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

Once contact with our Universal or capital "S" Self is made, a thrill of hope in the form of evolutionary forward momentum, a Knowingness begins to develop and we move from torpor toward greater and greater happiness.

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

All creation is oriented toward the dawn. Comes the dawn! Although "yonder" implies it's over there somewhere a distance away, look at how the word "breaks" is used (there's that breaking of symmetry again!). One can imagine that the thrill of hope is the golden embrace and that the sun breaks through or past the horizon and the glorious morn is Surya, the Ultimate remover of Darkness! (Imagine Surya Namskar on the next line.)

Fall on your knees.

These four words are a complete sentence and although it appears to be imperative, my feeling is that it is an observation from the witness of this coming of the dawn. To fall on one's knees is another way of expressing what happens spontaneously either literally or figuratively when devotion, bhakti, is awakened.

Oh, hear the angel voices!

Another short and complete sentence with an exclamation! Again, not a direction but an observation and an emphatic one at that, that once devotion to Higher Self is enlivened, one may experience with their senses the celestial layer.

O night divine.

Now here we have it in three words the whole crux of the hymn; the darkness of night in contrast with "divine" a word derived from the Sanskrit word Deva meaning "shining one." Webster's dictionary defines divine as: of, relating to, or coming directly from God or a god. The darkness of night in contrast with the light of day, this is the play of the material world, this is how we Know ourselves. Contrast propels us toward our highest potential.

O night when Christ was born!

Another emphatic way of expressing why we are hymning this one night in particular.

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Not once, not twice, but three times night is described. Beyond words is the night. Sacred is the night. A gift from God is the night that shines.


Whether through Christ, Krishna, a Rabbi, Guru, or Master, may you continue to grow in recognition of your worth and Cosmic Status.

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