December 21, 2016

Pause.... and Begin Again

Sung by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir. Lyrics by Christina Rossetti:

In the bleak midwinter
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 midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

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.

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

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.

-- Christina Rossetti, written before 1872, incorporated into The English Hymnal, 1906.

Music: Gustav Holst

Posted by Vanderleun at December 21, 2016 6:37 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Alternatively, the terms we find in the book: "Repent, and be born again." What a beautiful manifestation of the grace and glories of God.

Posted by: askmom at December 10, 2007 8:42 PM

Amen! Thank you.

Posted by: Dennis at December 10, 2007 8:50 PM

Truly inspiring and uplifting. Who can listen and not know there is So Much More?

Posted by: Webutante at December 11, 2007 3:41 AM

Yes, thank you. How do you find these things, other than by the grace of God.

Posted by: Bob Sykes at December 11, 2007 5:46 AM

God help us all. Thank you and Merry Christmas

Posted by: jeffersonranch at December 11, 2007 7:00 AM

Pure soul! Thank you,Gerald, and God bless us every one.

Posted by: Gecko at December 11, 2007 7:32 PM

In the suburbs of Toronto, over 600 miles from home, after 35+ weeks of travel, I listen and cry. Yes, regardless of any theology, from humble beginnnings, as humble as any homeless person, came the greatest teacher the world has seen. And when he was born he was loved by his mother, and all who knew of him. The greatest birthday present we can give him is to listen and learn.

Merry Christmas to you, Gerard, and to all who read this, and God's blessings on all of us.

Posted by: Bill_K at December 12, 2007 8:20 PM

Gourgeous performance. Is there any doubt which is truly the religion of peace?

Posted by: ent at December 12, 2007 9:29 PM

Hey, looks like somebody's been reading my blog! And using it for, er, inspiration...Not that I mind; that's what blogging is for. And Clio is, after all, a Muse. At least when she's on the web.

Posted by: alias clio at December 14, 2007 9:09 AM

Glory be to God in the highest!

Posted by: ari at December 15, 2007 4:37 PM

Thank you and Merry Christmas

Posted by: Firmalar at December 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Truly awesome. Thank you.

Posted by: Circe at December 21, 2007 8:13 PM

Just about my favorite. Thanks.

Posted by: bird dog at December 24, 2007 4:30 AM

Hope you don't mind, but posted this on One of the most beautiful things ever. Thank you.

Posted by: billadams at December 31, 2007 9:26 PM

In 1974, I came to San Francisco with a backpack. My first job was as the Baritone soloist at Grace Cathedral, firmly in the English tradition of vocal music.

What wonderful memories this brings. Thank you.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at December 19, 2008 7:13 PM

I was just playing this on the piano while we were all just relaxing in the glow of the tree lights. My husband never heard it before. It is one of my favorite Christmas carols.

Posted by: Jewel at December 19, 2008 8:34 PM

Thank you for a beautiful and timely gift. I have never heard this song before and it inspires me to broaden my musical choices... and effort to listen spiritually.

Posted by: Hannon at December 20, 2008 12:07 AM

Gerard, do you know the tenor aria from Bach's Christmas Oratorio that is like Rossetti's hymn in its contrast between Christ's divinity and His humble birth?

Großer Herr, o starker König,
Liebster Heiland, o wie wenig
Achtest du der Erden Pracht!
Der die ganze Welt erhält,
Ihre Pracht und Zier erschaffen,
Muss in harten Krippen schlafen.

[Translation: Mighty Lord, O strongest sovereign,
Dearest Savior, O how little
Heedest thou all earthly pomp!
He who all the world doth keep,
All its pomp and grace hath fashioned,
Must within the hard crib slumber.]

Wonderful performance by Dietrich Henschel at

Thank you for reposting the Rossetti-- more quietly meditative than the Bach, but each beautiful in its own way. A blessed Christmas to you.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee at December 20, 2008 7:31 PM

How timely and how perfect. Christmas is nearing and I am watching the snow fall upon snow on the hills of Seattle. This is one of my favorite songs; thank you.

Posted by: Susan at December 20, 2008 8:52 PM

Good one, Connecticut Yankee - although that aria is for

The latter Bass aria is also beautiful, btw:

Erleucht auch meine finstre Sinnen,
Erleuchte mein Herze durch der Strahlen klaren Schein.

Dein Wort soll mir die hellste Kerze in allen meinen Werken sein;
Dies lasset die Seele nichts Boses beginnen.

Enlighten Thou my blinded senses,
And brighten my heart with the clear ray of Thy regard.

Thy word shall be a shining candle to guide me when the way is hard,
To ward off temptation and evil offenses.

One of most powerful things about singing Bach's cantatas and oratorios is that the Bass often is featured as the voice of Jesus, or of God Himself. The tendency to get operatic is, for me, profoundly tempered by the humility engendered, as Bach was demonstrably aware.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at December 21, 2008 10:34 AM

I've never heard this before, and I've just listened to it 6 times so far. It is so beautiful. Thank you so much!

Posted by: Maggie45 at December 21, 2008 9:13 PM

Thank you for this beautiful hymn I had never heard before. I listened to it at the Anchoress' site and again here.

So peaceful and so beautiful. It's now one of my favorites!

Posted by: Jeanette at December 22, 2008 12:06 AM

I already sent that to my parents. They appreciated it. Not much 'bleak midwinter' in Bradenton, Florida; but they did like it.

(plenty of 'bleak midwinter' in Michigan already)

Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 20, 2013 9:44 PM

Gerard: Have you heard of Philip Stopford?

Lully Lulla Lullay

He also has a version of In the bleak:

Posted by: ahem at December 21, 2013 5:09 AM

Oh my, quite beautiful and ethereal. Thanks for the links.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 21, 2013 3:56 PM

What a sweet thing to hear in the midst of (I'll be gracious)this rather troubled season. Here is one of my very favorites. Ethereal, Celtic style:


Posted by: jwm at December 21, 2014 4:46 PM

I look forward to this post every year.

Thanks, Gerard

Posted by: Orcadrvr at December 22, 2014 7:27 AM

Ditto, 2015


Posted by: Orcadrvr at December 20, 2015 8:08 AM

Thank beautiful!!!

Posted by: Grace Clark at December 21, 2015 1:14 PM

Ditto, 2016!

Posted by: orcadrvr at December 21, 2016 7:15 PM

Whew! takes my breath away every time.

Posted by: tonynoboloney at December 21, 2016 8:59 PM

Thank you Gerard. I needed that this morning.

Posted by: Terry at December 22, 2016 8:12 AM