How beautiful are the feet
that one day will bring good news,
but for now they rest with me
where the weary oxen doze.
How beautiful are the hands
that will one day grasp the world,
tucked away in swaddling bands
with their perfect fingers curled.
But for now, O God my savior,
while the world in sorrow sleeps,
grant us slumber in the stable;
let us rest in midnight peace.
How beautiful is the mouth
that one day will judgment give,
but for now, all slack in drowse,
they breathe out milk-scented peace.
How beautiful are the arms
that one day will show God's might,
but for now in shadows dark
they can rest here in the night.
And one day, O God my savior,
he will cast the mighty down.
He will lift the poor to favor,
but for now, he is my own.
The word that struck creation's spark
is silent in the waiting dark:
Eternity bound in her womb,
knit into time, wrapped for the tomb.
So his earth in her waters grows
'til parted by her body's throes,
and he for whom the dark was light
is pierced by one star shining bright.
And she, the good earth for the seed,
has magnified her God indeed:
Invisible but for her love,
he wails to see the stars above.
The constellations dance and dim
beyond the light announcing him,
and shepherds who have left their sheep
now watch unblinking Godhead sleep.
They sing, in words he gave them first,
sweet comfort for the baby's birth,
that child and mother, weary worn,
may slumber, slumber, 'til the morn.
Oh, come to me across the hills
on any rugged path you find,
and though it calls you backward still,
leave dusty Galilee behind
to let me hear you say my name.
Call to my now in ancient voice
to crack my chrysalis of shame
as something in me leaps for joy.
O Mother of my Lord, O blest,
how can it be that you should come?
But like the swallow, build your nest
and stoop to rest in this, your home:
no bygone shrine, untouched by years,
but living, breathing dirt and grime.
Come clothe him in my sweat and tears
and cradle him in arms like mine.
Not in a page of history
or atlas of a distant land,
but come, my mother: Visit me;
I'll feel him move beneath my hands.
Bring him to me! Bring me your son,
and quicken me with his own life,
that all my days while yet they run,
may hold the living, present Christ.
Did you see it in the manger?
Was he torn like broken bread,
showing you the coming danger,
straw like thorns around his head?
Did you see him wounded, bleeding,
in your blood and water then?
As you lay, his hunger feeding,
did you know we'd feed on him?
Did you see him handed over
as he lay there in your arms?
Did your fear and doubt take over,
sounding, screaming their alarms?
Did you see him wrapped in linen
when you swaddled him to sleep,
see him laid into the tomb, then,
and for years that image keep?
Now the crowd shouts out, “Hosanna!”
Does it echo in your ears
with the cries that came upon you,
fleeing Bethlehem in tears?
Now he strides into the Temple
where you sought him in despair.
Could you ever be forgetful
of the fear that took you there?
Mary, following his journey,
was it as you'd always known?
Did you ever think of turning,
begging him to come back home?
Now the sword is drawing nearer
that the old man had foretold.
Do you see it ever clearer
as you watch the days unfold?
You covered Jesus with your cloak
and took the exile's midnight road.
You fled the tyrant's deadly stroke,
the child within your mantle stowed.
How much would you have given, though,
to wrap him safely at your breast
when you instead saw him brought low
and of his seamless cloak undressed?
You wrapped him once in swaddling bands,
and in the end, a linen shroud.
We took him from your gentle hands
to fill a tomb we'd hollowed out.
But, O my mother, wrap your cloak
today around the burning world.
Protect us from the flames and smoke,
from bullets fired and missiles hurled.
As you held Jesus to your breast,
so hold us close this mournful day.
Wrapped in your mantle may we rest,
then rise to take the exile's way.
O Mary, fill your mother's arms
with all the ones Christ left behind.
Within your cloak hide us from harm,
for him who healed the deaf and blind.
Weeping night, birthing night,
Mary calls: mother's plight.
In her labor she wails and she moans;
with the effort she cries and she groans
while the world is made new,
while the world is made new.
Troubled night, shocking night,
shepherds quake at the sight—
Heav'n dissolves in an ocean of fire,
deafens earth with its thundering choir—
yet they rise in their fear,
yet they rise in their fear.
Questing night, gasping night,
magi reel, take to flight.
This new star upends all they have known:
journey far to the newborn king's throne,
they will set out at once,
they will set out at once.
Breathless night, searching night,
we are called to his side:
Helpless godhead, he weeps with our tears;
word eternal steps into our years.
All our sorrows are his,
all our sorrows are his.
Aching night, longest night,
yet it ends, morning bright.
Bound in linen, Christ lies in the stone;
he will wake when his hunger has grown.
Dawn breaks over us all,
dawn breaks over us all.
My soul must magnify the Lord
as he shrinks down, a speck of dust
that floats on sunlight to the floor,
as nothing as the rest of us.
How can this be, that he should live
as near as dust to dust is near?
Yet I shall give what I can give:
a home among the dust motes here.
And all the motes shall praise my name,
not for myself—no dust can bear
the weight of glory's endless flame—
but for the dust my dust shall bear:
As grit within the tyrant's eye
he grinds blind justice into gaze;
a spark upon the wind, he flies
to set the mighty woods ablaze;
a tiny seed ground into flour,
he fills the hungry with his bread;
a grain of sand that fills the hour,
he throws the powerful in dread.
Yes, even now the Lord Most High
remembers what he said to us,
and on the way to paradise
he raises up a cloud of dust.
The sun in all its glory,
the moon that glows and fades:
This is your mercy toward me
that fills my nights and days,
the very earth that holds me,
the waters running down,
and every word you've told me,
all woven as a crown.
My body like my mother's,
the blood within my veins,
the heart that skips and flutters,
the breath that won't remain:
They hear your whisper call me,
your angel speak my name.
Your shadow falls upon me;
I cannot stay the same.
Now you have turned me over,
have raised me from the dust
and built yourself a tower,
a body from my rust.
And all my world is shaken,
the high stars toppled down,
when in my flesh you quicken
and in my waters drown.
Your name is no less holy
hung on an infant's arms:
the mighty one made lowly
to fill the empty heart.
Your promise you remembered
though long the years have been,
and all creation trembles
now you have called it kin.
For the readings for Assumption this past Sunday, combining Revelations and the Magnificat:
Your soul once magnified the Lord;
your spirit sang for joy,
but can you show him in this world
when so much is destroyed?
You sang, and then you wailed aloud:
the dragon swept down stars,
and are you wailing even now
within this world of ours?
One infant leapt to share your joy,
but others now lie still.
Oh, hold them as you did your boy
upon that dreadful hill!
Your kinswoman, she sang with you—
now others join your wail
to weep for those cut down too soon,
struck by the dragon's tail.
How can your music still resound
beneath our blood-red skies?
The mighty have not been cast down;
the poor have yet to rise.
But sing again, O Mother kind,
and weep aloud with us,
until that day dawns for the blind
that God remembers us.
Patroness of the Americas–all of them, all of us. to the tune PASSION CHORALE (“Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded”):
O, mother of the nations
and heaven's dark-eyed queen,
announcing our salvation,
that God our works has seen:
We turn against each other
and do not hear you call,
but are you not our mother
and mother of us all?
The rich man robs the poor one;
the strong weigh down the weak.
In each of them lives your son,
and for them each he weeps.
Oh, show us Christ our brother—
in every voice, he calls!
For are you not our mother
and mother of us all?
Teach us to tend his body,
to bind the grievous wounds
that leave his people bloody
and sinking toward the tomb.
Teach us to love each other
lest we to hatred fall.
For are you not our mother
and mother of us all?