TO BE A CHRISTIAN – VI
The Nativity took place once, for all time. If Christmas is a feast to celebrate the immeasurably great mystery of the Incarnation, then every day should be a day for Christ his Mass. For so gloriously generous a gift that no amount of thanksgiving suffices, Christmas every day is not too much by way of an attempt.
There came to the Infant the humblest and the highest. That the Magi brought gifts we are told; that the shepherds brought gifts we suppose. What gifts may I give, asks Christina Rossetti, and concludes, “give my heart.” Peter Cornelius had much the same idea:
Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem
the Kings are travelling, travel with them!
The star of mercy, the star of grace,
shall lead thy heart to its resting place.
Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring;
offer thy heart to the infant King.
Ivor Atkins made of the poem a beautiful carol, which can be heard here:
Robert Herrick’s poem, edited for John Rutter’s exquisite setting, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLkxe6q6UyE ) comes to the same conclusion:
We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.
(Don’t miss the third line in the verse above.)
Here is a slightly different point of view:
laid in a borrowed crib,
Man, stowed away in a borrowed tomb,
Word, leaping down from royal throne
to be swaddled moveless, wordless,
on the breast of her you gave life to,
what gift may I lay in the straw beside
gold, myrrh and frankincense?
Set down the needless burdens, daughter.
Regret for past follies; harboured hurts
not merited; sorrow for that
which you could never mend.
Borrowing is for me: flesh like yours,
to hunger, grow weary, be wounded,
hung upon a tree. For you
here are gifts: my mother,
my body, my blood, my love
unending. Your acceptance,
daughter, is all I seek.
©2015 by Ruth Heredia