Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 12, 2017
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.” 
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.” 
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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 Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 310.