Tag Archives: Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone and not a sheep?


Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

-Christina Rossetti

His mirror, sister, Bride.

Malcolm Guite has given us a rich treasury in the poetry anthology he assembled, Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. For each poem he writes what he calls a “reflective essay,” and they are wonderfully enlightening for someone like me whose education in poetry is minimal.

I was browsing the paperback last night just before falling asleep, and when I read this poem by Christina Rossetti I got the idea to post it here on its eponymous day — but I lost that thought all together with consciousness. Guite has put it on his blog on the proper day, where you can hear him read it if you like. But to read his thoughts you’ll have to get the book itself.

For the Orthodox, what we call the Nativity Fast does not begin on a certain day of the week approximately four weeks before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, but always on November 15, making it 40 days long. It’s consistent, but wouldn’t make a tidy title for a poem!


BEHOLD, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His Side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove’s, and she’s Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

-Christina Rossetti

What honesty reveals of mystery…

I read a list “of the best poems for New Year,” and Christina Rossetti’s “Old and New Year Ditties” was among them. The second stanza reads:

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

This reminded me of a prayer that we pray at every Divine Liturgy, “All things good and profitable for our souls, let us ask of the Lord.” When we realize that as the poet says, whatever comes our way has the potential to “help me on my…rugged way to heaven,” even what is “ill” is transformed.

That isn’t to deny the “honest face” we need to have in ourselves, and which some part of us longs for from everything and everyone we encounter in life. Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “If there are two heretical words in the Christian vocabulary, they would be ‘optimism’ and ‘pessimism.’ These two things are utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian.” What we need is reality, the reality that “Our faith is not based on anything except on these two fundamental revelations: God so loved the world, and: The fallen world has been secretly, mysteriously redeemed.”(From the lecture “Between Utopia and Escape.”)

As we face the gifts of the new year 2017, may God’s grace flow through each one. My love goes out to you all!


Yet farther on my road today.

My lights and bows are still up – and the tree.

The bright season of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord is only in its sixth day, but already we need to make room in our minds for thoughts of transition, closing out one calendar year and opening a new one.

Before I go there, I need to be done with all the Christmas cookies, at least on this blog. Last night we Glads were off to another party, and I took the tins out of the freezer again and loaded up a plate to take along, but that still didn’t use them all up.

I made ten different kinds of cookies this year, including five new ones. Next year I may share some of those recipes, but for now, on to other things!

Like reporting on last week’s doings: We had three different groupings of family celebrations in two different locations. Sunday before Christmas we went to church with Pippin and family; this is Ivy in the foyer. I took the photo from behind so I could show her pigtails.


And next to a lamp made of popsicle sticks, a bunch of uncles and nephews playing a game, something they always make time for when getting together after a few months.



One of the trees that had been cut on federal land in Trinity County had been decorated with antique spice tins. I thought you would like that.












Back at our place, Liam got a lesson in Christmas tree appreciation and gentleness. He was a good student.










I found this pretty piano ornament at Pottery Barn when they were having a special deal, and I gave one to each of several pretty pianists in the family.

Some of my own favorite presents were these books I’ll be reading in the new year, given by four different people who scanned my Amazon list and surprised me with titles I had wished for and forgotten. Kind people.

I feel the Old Year rushing away, and the New coming fast at me, never mind that I’m not “ready.” Sickness right before Christmas pushed some duties ahead to After Christmas, and what might have been a purely R&R&R (the last R for Rejoicing) Sixth Day of Christmas will be interrupted by the Computer Guy coming to help with our computer, a machine so rude as to take our attention off the holiness of the days we are in.

As I am in a liturgical church, the service yesterday gloriously confirmed the present-ness of the holy day that is so cosmologically momentous as to need at least twelve days to properly keep it. The carol-singing we did last night also kept me planted firmly in the Feast, so that for an hour or two I didn’t have to think about the onrushing year of 2014.

Some lines of poetry from Christina Rossetti helped me when I took a few minutes to think. The last lines were the most applicable to my heart’s comfortable place, reiterating what I come back to again and again, the knowledge that whatever comes, today or in the coming year God means it for our salvation.

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

The rest of this poem can be found here. Whether or not you are the type of person who needs a lot of down time to process the meaning of the days of Christmas and the New Year, I pray you will find help to progress on your road to heaven. May God strengthen us all!