"A Handful of Earth and Incense" A Compact Disc Praising Saint Sharbel 

By Guita Hourani 
Chairwoman of MARI


Compact Disc: Kamchet Trab w-Bakhour (A Handful of Earth and Incense)
 World Premiere Recording, 1998 Esperia, Italy. 

This is the second musical work of Father Milad Tarabay of the Lebanese Maronite Order and Esperia srl, Italy. The disk is composed, orchestrated and directed by Father Tarabay. 

Earth and incense symbolize the maxim of work and prayer in the Syro-Maronite tradition. Maronites, lay and clergy, have lived for centuries according to this precept. It is entrenched, rooted and embedded in their conscience and manifests itself in every aspect of their culture, especially in sacred music. 

According to Father Badih El-Hajj, who wrote the introduction for this CD, "This musical work has deep roots in a dual heritage: the sacred art of the Syriac-Maronite Church and the secular culture of the Lebanese people. These traditions represent two worlds which are completely different, but have existed side by side, interweaving and inspiring one another for over a thousand years, and creating an exchange of exceptional intensity." 

The disc contains nine hymns and three musical compositions. As Father El Hajj stated, Father Tarabay has chosen to blend genres and traditions. His music and texts are taken from or inspired by the psalms, the Maronite liturgy, poems, and popular Lebanese tradition. 

"A Handful of Earth and Incense" transports you to the realm of heaven for 48 minutes and 19 seconds. It uplifts you and touches you with angelic love. The music is sublime and inspiring. The singing is exquisite. The lyrics, which have been passed down, are full of meaning and spirituality. Intense devotion is felt in the music, the words and the voices. Listening to this CD is a journey into the spirituality and deep meaning of the Maronite religious culture. 

Very moving were the second hymn Sharbel, a Universal Citizen, written by Father Augustin Mhanna and sung so angelically by LÚna Farah; and the eighth hymn # 8 Sharbel adopted from the Maronite Liturgy and sung beautifully by LÚna Farah and Marcel Badawi. They have inspired me to glorify the Lord and praise Saint Sharbel. They have awakened my blood ties with the magnificent Syro-Maronite tradition. I translate their verses because of my admiration. The following are the words of Hymn #2, a Universal Citizen:

"A monastery, guarding jealously
Within its walls, the remains of the one who embraced eternity,
Sharbel, the spring of the Order and the fragrance of Lebanon. 
The Monastery of Annaya is a censer suspended between heaven and earth
From which pours the perfume of the faithful's prayers, 
The hope of the repentant, the pleas of the sick 
And the tears of the unhappy and the lost.
Watchful hermit, who has become today the saint who
Watches not only over the hope of his people and their needs,
But rather over the universe." 

Hymn # 8 Sharbel

"Blessed is he,
Who spread his marvels in the universe,
More suave than perfume
More desirable than myrrh and
More scented than myrtle,

You have sown in the mountain prayers and chants.
You have distilled the nights in a chalice of prayer
That so elated the mountain peaks
That they prostrated in adoration. 
Your lamp is a light that dispels night and is the
Water of life, fire and spirit that radiate light and love which enrich us.

Sharbel, wait!
Stay to bless us.
Your prayer is a rampart,
Your whisper is a breeze that
Spreads spring and victory through Lebanon.

Blessed is he,
Who spread his marvels in the universe,
More suave than perfume
More desirable than myrrh and
More scented than myrtle."

This is an impressive second achievement by Father Tarabay. After listening to this CD, you will wonder how could you have been without it all this time. 

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