Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"In the moonless grey night is a gleam"

The O Antiphons start today:
Before the coming of God in the flesh, we were ignorant, subject to eternal punishment, slaves of the Devil, shackled with our sinful habits, lost in darkness, exiled from our true country. Hence the ancient antiphons announce Jesus in turn as our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener and our Saviour.    The Golden Legend of Jacobus
This is by St Peter Chrysologus and was in the Magnificat reading for today.
"Fear had permeated all things, dread had disrupted the universe, terror had battered everything. In heaven God's splendor had prostrated the angels, and on earth thunder and lightning were shaking the hearts of men.

.... He who has enough fear cannot love. That is why the world preferred to perish rather than to fear; death itself is lighter than dread....

Therefore God, seeing the world falling into ruin because of fear, continuously acts to recall it with love, invite it back by grace, hold it tight in charity, and embrace it with affection. ...He calls Noah the father of a new world, addresses him with pleasing language, gives him kindly confidence and fatherly instruction about the present, consoles him with good hope for the future.

And now, not so much by commands as by a sharing of work, he shuts into one ark the seedling creatures of the whole new world, that the love of fellowship may banish the fear characteristic of bondage, and a common love preserve what a common toil had saved."
Somehow, with its euphony and rolling pace through past, present, to future, the passage reminds me of Chesterton

In the time of dead things it is living,
In the moonless grey night is a gleam,
Still the babe that is quickened may conquer,
The life that is new may redeem.
Ho, princes and priests, have you heard it?
Grow pale through your scorn.
Huge dawns sleep before us, stern changes –
A child is born.

Or again, here
It is rather as if a man had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart that betrayed him into good. It is not made of what the world would call strong materials; or rather it is made of materials whose strength is in that winged levity with which they brush us and pass. It is all that is in us but a brief tenderness that is there made eternal; all that means no more than a momentary softening that is in some strange fashion become a strengthening and a repose; it is the broken speech and the lost word that are made positive and suspended unbroken; as the strange kings fade into a far country and the mountains resound no more with the feet of the shepherds; and only the night and the cavern lie in fold upon fold over something more human than humanity.
The paradox of weakness conquering strength, of deepest darkness turning to light, of the Supreme Creator inviting, recalling, giving, embracing rather than destroying -- I feel the dread more awful than death strongly, but I know with all my heart that the huge dawn is coming.  

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