I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ARCH 24TH marks the anniversary of the assassination of Blessed Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. On Sunday, March 23, 1980, the day before his assassination, Romero addressed the soldiers in his homily:

“En nombre de Dios, pues, y en nombre de este sufrido pueblo, cuyos lamentos suben hasta el cielo cada día más tumultuosos, les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: ¡Cese la represión!”

“In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”

Listen to a recording of this part of his homily here.

While Romero was not interested in Liberation Theology, he spoke vehemently against the human rights abuses of the Salvadoran government. He gave voice to those who had no voice: the oppressed, the poor, the victims of abject cruelty. For this, he paid with his life.

His cause for canonization was opened in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. At a standstill for some years, it was furthered in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. On February 3, 2015, Pope Francis decreed that Romero was martyred in odium fidei (“in hatred of the faith”). Romero was then beatified in El Salvador on May 23, 2015.

N 2016 JENNIFER LESTER, Music Director of the The Seraphim Singers, was intent on commissioning from me a work to honor Óscar Romero. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950).

The text of the poem is here and below.
A Spanish translation by Nancy Morejón can be found here.

Here is a recording of a live performance by the Seraphim Singers in 2016:

E. Ethelbert Miller writes:

I Am The Land: A Poem In Memory of Oscar Romero was first published in my collection First Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Classic Press, 1994). It’s one of the few poems I wrote specifically for a public reading.

The “tone” of the poem echoes the work of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Ernesto Cardenal.

The work was an outgrowth of my interest in liberation theology. One of the major issues in our world today continues to be poverty. “The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.” This line should connect with everyone. I hope my poem also speaks to the role of the church in our society. The doors of this institution must always remain open, for pilgrims and strangers. Our faith must be made visible. I believe it begins with an open heart. Finally, the poem connects life to land. I wanted to link Oscar Romero to the grass, trees and wind. Even after Romero’s death, one should be able to open a window and inhale his beliefs and memory.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

– E. Ethelbert Miller
March 14, 2017

From my own program notes: “…Romero’s message is a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

NE OF THE GREAT JOYS of the creative process is to work with and meet great artists who also happen to be beautiful people. Out of Jennifer Lester’s vision came the opportunity to live intimately inside of E. Ethelbert Miller’s words. His poetry evokes images far beyond the vivid emotions on the page. His words elicit further questions, leaving in their wake a burning desire to experience more that has already come alive on the page.

A man of kindness and vision, Miller’s work lives well beyond his words, flowing into action, exuding a joy of living.

I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

The doors of the church are open
as wide as the heart of a man.
In times of trouble
here is a rock, here is a hand.

God knows the meaning of our prayers.
I have asked our government to listen.
God is not dead
and I will never die.

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

The souls of my people are the pages of history.
The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.

I am Oscar Romero, a humble servant.
I am the land.
I am all the people who have no land.
I am the grass growing.
I am all the children who have been murdered.
I am the trees.
I am the priests, the nuns, the believers.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poets who will sing forever.
I am the poor.
I am the dreamer whose dreams overflow with hope.
I am the hungry.
I am the people.
I am Oscar Romero.

– E. Ethelbert Miller

The Seraphim Singers Premiere “I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero” • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ENNIFER LESTER, director of The Seraphim Singers, molds highly adventuresome programming through faith and personal conviction. Seraphim’s upcoming program “Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity” will be another strong statement, musically and socially.

From their website:

This concert of musical works bearing witness and standing with human suffering includes James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados, on Argentina’s Dirty War; Zachary Wadsworth’s setting of Whitman’s “Old War Dreams”; the premiere of Richard Clark’s I Am the Land, a poem inspired by Óscar Romero, and Howells’ exquisite Requiem. With Heinrich Christensen, organ.

ESTER was intent on commissioning a new work about Óscar Romero, a voice for the voiceless. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Oscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950), a tribute to the late Archbishop of El Salvador. Assassinated on March 24, 1980 while saying Mass, Romero was beatified by Pope Francis on May 23, 2015.

From my program notes: “…Romero’s message as a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

The text of the poem is here.

From Miller’s publicist:

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies and a board member for The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Miller is an inductee of the 2015 Washington, DC Hall of Fame and recipient of the AWP 2016 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature and the 2016 DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. His most recent book is The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter and published by Willow Books.

IF YOU ARE IN THE BOSTON AREA be sure not to miss this premiere as part the Seraphim Singer’s ” Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity.” There will be two performances:

Sunday, November 6, 2016, 3:00 pm
Eliot Church of Newton, 474 Centre Street, Newton

Sunday, November 13, 2016, 3:00 pm
First Church (Congregational) 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

$20 general admission and $15 senior/student.

• Tickets are available at the door or purchase online here
• Download the concert poster here
• Watch a video postcard here


HE SERAPHIM SINGERS ARE ENORMOUS ADVOCATES of new music with several new commissions each year. Jennifer Lester’s programming is astonishingly vast, from Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony to Twenty-first Century works. Yet, her programming flows with astounding unity and beauty.

The Boston Music Intelligencer writes:

“Ingenious programming by Jennifer Lester…”

“Anyone who cares about these genres owes it to him/herself to hear this gifted ensemble whenever possible.”

“Technically, the ensemble was in fine form, performing incredibly challenging choral repertoire with a high degree of finesse.”

Hope to see you there!

Compline Hymn for Lent | Christe qui lux es et dies


HRISTE QUI LUX ES ET DIES (Christ, who art the light and day) is based on the ancient Compline Hymn for Lent, likely dating back to the Fourth Century. Although it was not retained in the Roman Breviary, its continued widespread use is perhaps attributed to its antiquity, exquisite poetry, and simple beauty, glorifying Christ as the World’s Light. With this universal theme, Its use may extend beyond Lent.

This setting utilizes two major themes: the opening choral statement and the ancient chant melody, both in naturally progressing keys. The opening theme provides an axis of symmetry, setting verses one, four, and seven, while the chant is the basis of verses two, three, five and six. The Amen recapitulates the chant theme inside a variation of the opening exposition. As such, the Light of Christ is proclaimed both deep within the soul and cried aloud for all.

You may purchase a downloadable Digital PDF of the score. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score.

  • PDF Download includes 2 scores: 1. SATB 2. SATB with piano reduction for rehearsal

  • ($49.00) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one choir. You do not have permission to disseminate the score.

  • If you are a for-profit organization and/or intend to record this work, or for placement in film, TV, any etc., please contact us at RJC AT rjcceciliamusic DOT com for additional contractual information.

Premiered by the The Seraphim Singers  | Jennifer Lester, Director
February 2, 2014, Candlemas — Feast of the Presentation
First Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts | Recorded LIVE: February 7, 2014 at St. Cecilia Church, Boston, Massachusetts
Recording Engineer: Evan Landry


Christ, who art the light and day,
You drive away the darkness of night,
You are called the light of light,
For you proclaim the blessed light.

We beseech you, Holy Lord,
Protect us this night.
Let us take our rest in you;
Grant us a tranquil night.

Let our sleep be free from care;
Let not the enemy snatch us away,
Nor flesh conspire within him,
And make us guilty in your sight.

Though our eyes be filled with sleep,
Keep our hearts forever awake to you.
May your right hand protect
Your willing servants.

You who are our shield, behold;
Restrain those that lie in wait.
And guide your servants whom
You have ransomed with your blood.

Remember us, O Lord,
Who bear the burden of this mortal form;
You who are the defender of the soul,
Be near us, O Lord.

Glory be to God the Father,
And to his only Son,
With the Spirit, Comforter,
Both now and evermore. Amen.