December 26th sees the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I’ve decided to mark this ancient tradition by posting a little treasure on each of the Twelve Days: something that I find intriguing or beautiful. Something worth noticing or remembering or celebrating. It might be music, or a poem, or it might be a picture or photograph. Maybe even a recipe. It’s a journey of discovery and I’m not sure where it will lead. That’s all part of the fun.
Today’s treasure is a short poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins in an evocative musical setting. I noticed it recently, performed by Belfast Cathedral Choir on their ‘A Belfast Christmas’ CD, which, by the way, has fast become a favourite.
With its mysterious opening line, the poem as a whole captures something of the ‘betweenness’ of Christmas. Christ’s birth stands between, in that it changed history: everything before, and everything after. But Gerard Manley Hopkins makes the transformative possibility of Christ’s birth very personal.
At Christmas, I love finding time and space after all the busyness of the past year. It’s a kind of hibernation: time to pause and find respite before moving into new adventures. Before journeying on from winter dark into new brightness. Into new beginnings.
Moonless Darkness Stands Between
Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins