Tag Archives: Christina Rossetti

Celebrate with Christina Rossetti

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 12, 2017

little lamb

Celebrate with Christina Rossetti

Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin have done a wonderful thing by giving us snapshots of all of these diverse believers from many different faith traditions, including Christina Rossetti. I have loved Christina Rossetti’s poems for decades, ever since I discovered them as a teenager. (The last verse of this particular hymn has been precious to me since then.) However, I never knew very much about her, other than the fact she was an invalid for much of her life.

Her father was an impressive man: a refugee from Italy, he became a professor of English at King’s College, London during the 1800’s. Their family was part of the artistic creativity of that time. Rossetti was a devout Anglican, and her poems reflect her deep beliefs.

This excerpt is a poem (also the words of a hymn, tune CRANHAM, written by Gustav Holst). It shows the deep, reverent feelings Rossetti has about the Nativity. I appreciate Foster and Griffin’s placement of this in the “Celebration” part of this anthology, since this poem is at once celebratory, wonder-full, and prayerful.

Yes, the setting of the first verse is striking and sets the scene of midwinter in England exactly. However, on this reading, I was struck by Rossetti’s prayerful wonder. True enough, “Angels and archangels /May have gathered there,/Cherubim and seraphim/Thronged the air/.” All of heaven’s glory must have stood in watch and wonder at the birth of God’s Son. But—but— “But only his mother/In her maiden bliss/Worshipped the Beloved/With a kiss.” [1]

Indeed, what wonder.

And, the last verse of this hymn always brings me to tears. “What can I bring 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 can I give him, Give my heart.” [2]

Dear Lord, sweet Jesus, these words come from deep inside of me, and deep inside of many. Hear us, dear Lord. In Your sweet, loving name we pray, amen.



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[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 310.

[2] Ibid.