Materials for Advent (2013) — Day 3

A detail from Michelangelo’s “Pietà”
(1498-1499)

 

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.  (1 Nephi 11:13-18)

 

“Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”  (Elder Neal A. Maxwell)

 

I have long loved Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” especially in the musical settings by Gustav Holst — to whose tomb, in Chichester Cathedral, I’ve made my pilgrimage –and Harold Edwin Darke.  (There are a number of others, also good, including one by Benjamin Britten.)  I confess to regarding the line “I would do my part,” in the last stanza, the fifth, as weak — too abstract, lacking the powerful concreteness of the rest of the poem.  I realize that Rossetti needed something to rhyme with the “heart” of the last line (which is a very significant line), but “I would do my part” seems a poor last resort.  On the other hand, the second and third stanzas, in my view, capture the essence of the Incarnation, which is the paradoxical and astonishing essence of Christianity, remarkably well.  If anybody can improve on “I would do my part” while preserving the rhyme with “heart,” it would be a notable contribution to the music of Christmas.

 

Here it is, performed in the Holst version by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0aL9rKJPr4

 

1. In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

2. Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

3. Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

4. Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5. What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

 

 

  • Nathair /|

    I’m never going to be able to read that without thinking of Asherah now.

    • DanielPeterson

      Good!


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