The Fellowship: Lewis Tolkien and The Inklings
Topic: Christian Education
Advent Lyrics (Christ I)
Old English poem of 8th-9th century preserved in the Exeter Book
You are the wall-stone that the stonewrights once rejected from their labors. It suits you that you should be the capital of the glorious hall, and you gather up the capacious walls,
with fixed joint and stone unbroken, so that throughout all earthly cities, by the sight of the eyes, all men can marvel forever at the Lord of Glory.
Manifest now through your skillful craft the work of your own, sooth-fast, victor-bright, and allow wall to meet wall at once.
Now there is need for the building for the Architect and the King himself to come and make amends to that which is fallen to disrepair, the house under its roof.
He shaped the body and its limbs of clay— now shall the Lord of Life deliver the wearied heap from his wrath, the wretched from their terrors, just as he often has done. (1-17)
O, you are the Reckoner and the Rightful King, who keeps the stronghold, revealing life and the lofty ways to the blessed, withholding the lovely lanes of desire to those others, if their deeds are not sufficient.
Indeed we speak these words needfully and praise the one who shaped mankind—
[damage to the manuscript obliterates most of a line]
the condition of the careful, we who sit sorrowing in prison—
We expect the sun, the moment when the Life-Lord reveals the light to us, becoming protection for us in our minds, and winding up our frail wits in glory.
Make us worthy— who admits us into magnificence, when we must depart miserably into this narrow place, beshorn of our homeland.
Therefore one can say, who speaks truthfully to you, that he delivered the tribe of men, who were once perverted.
It was through a young woman, a maiden without wickedness, who he chose to be his mother.
That was done without the love of a man, so that the lady became large with the bearing of a child.
Nothing could compare to this, before or since, arising in the world, this woman’s yearning— that was a secret, the Lord’s mystery.
All spiritual gifts will pervade the regions of the earth— where many wise men were enlightened, their enduring teachings through the Origin of Life, which before lay hidden beneath the grave,
and the wordy songs of the prophets, when the Wielder came, he who amplifies the mystery of every statement of those who, through active state eagerly wish to extol the Shaper’s name. (18-49)
Hail sight of peace, holy Jerusalem best of national thrones, land of cities of Christ, the center of the angels’ homeland— and in you alone the souls of the soothfast may find their rest, exultant in your glories.
Never shall a slightest symbol of sin be revealed in that dwelling-place, but each and every fault shall far turn aside, wickedness and strife.
You are replete in every glory, the holy expectation, just as you are named —
See now for yourself: looking around every corner throughout this wide creation and the roomy roof of the heavens—
how the King of the Skies seeks a journey in you and arrives himself—
how he takes his abode in you, as the wisely fixed prophets told it before long ago.
They revealed the birth of Christ, speaking to you as a comfort, most excellent of all cities.
Now is the child come, born as an amendment, to the sins of the Hebrews.
He brings bliss to you, loosing your bonds compelled upon you in malice. He knows the pressing necessity, how the wretched must await mercy. (50-70)
Hail joy of women through the triumph of glory, the most noble of virgins across every corner of the earth that sea-dwelling men have ever heard spoken of— relate to us the mysteries which came to you from the heavens; how you ever took on your increasing, through the birthing of a child, never knowing any kind of coupling that the minds of men would understand. Truly we have never learned of anything like this happening in the days gone by, that you should take hold of this in your unique grace, nor need we look that event occurring any time ahead.
Indeed that troth indwells within you worthily, now that you have borne that glory majestic within your breast, and your mighty maidenhead was not destroyed. And as all children of men have sown in their sorrows, so they will soon reap— conception is a killing to them.
So spoke the Blessed Virgin, sainted Mary filled always with her victory:
“What is this wonderment at which you all stand amazed, and mourning lament your cares, O son of Salem and his daughter too? Curious, you inquire how I kept my virgin state and its warding hand and also became the mother of the famous Measurer’s Son. However, this is not a mystery knowable by men, yet Christ revealed how in the kinswoman dear to David that the sin of Eve is wholly turned aside, her curse cast down, and the weaker kind glorified. A hope is taken up so that a blessing may abide in both men and women together, now and always for all time to come in the highest delight of angels with the True Father.” (71-103)
Hail shining ray! Hail brightest of angels and illumination of the soothfast sun sent over middle-earth to all mankind, more brilliant than the stars—always you light up every season of your own self!
As you, God born readily from God, Son of the True Father, were ever without beginning in the glory of the sky, so now needfully your own creation abides you faithfully, so that you send us the bright sun, and that you come yourself to illuminate those who for the longest time, shrouded in shadow and in darkness here, reside in the everlasting night— enfolded in our sins, they have had to endure the dark shadows of death.
Now we joyously believe in salvation brought to the many by the word of God, who at the start was the Father Almighty, eternal even with God, and now become again flesh without sin, that the virgin birthed as a comfort to the miserable.
God was among us, seen without sins— they dwelt together: the mighty Son of the Measurer and the Child of Man both, concordant among humankind. We may tell our thanks perpetually according to his desert, because he wished to send us himself. (104-29)
O God of Spirits, how wisely you were named by the name Emmanuel, as the angel first spoke it in Hebrew!
That is readily translated generously in its mysteries: “Now is the Warden of Heaven, God himself among us!”
So the men of old many years ago truthfully prophesied the King of All Kings, just as the clean priest as well,
the most famous of all, Melchisedech wise in spirit once revealed the divine majesty of the Eternal All-Wielding God.
He was the bringer of the law, the teacher of holy lessons to those hoping for a long time for the hither-coming,
just as was foretold to him, that the Son of the Measurer himself would cleanse the citizens of the earth,
and likewise seek out a journey to the deep as well by the power of his spirit.
Now they bide in their bonds patiently for the Bairn of God to come to the chary. Enfeebled by their agonies,
therefore they call out thus: “Now come to us yourself, High-King of Heaven. Bring us the life of salvation,
the weary thralls of torment, worn out by our weeping, with bitter tears of burning salt. The cure for our pressing need lies with you alone.
Search here for these mind-miserable captives, and do not leave us behind you, when you come here again,
a multitude so massive, but reveal to us regally your mercies, Christ the Savior, Nobleman of Glory,
nor allow those cursed ones to keep power over us. Bequeath us eternal joys your own glories, that we may praise you,
Glory-King of Armies, which you once worked with your own hands.
In the lofty heights you shall abide forever with the Sovereign Father. (130-63)
Mary: “O my Joseph, son of Jacob, kin of David the most famous of kings! Must you now separate yourself so firmly from my affection, renouncing my love?”
Joseph: “I am quickly seized in deep offense at you, bereaved of my reputation, because I have heard many words of harm about you, broad sorrows and painful words, and they speak insults to me, many many wounding allegations.
I must pour forth many tears in a miserable mind. God can easily heal the heart-sorrows in my head and comfort the meagerly endowed. Alas young virigin, my maiden Mary!”
Mary: “What are you mourning, crying out so carefully?”
Joseph: “I have never found any fault in you, nor any reason to doubt you, no deeds of defilement, and now you speak these words to me when you are filled with every sort of sin and crime.”
Mary: “I too have received many hurts from this child-bearing state.”
Joseph: “How can I forgive this hateful speech or find any answer in reply to the wrathful? It is widely known that I took on from the bright temple of the Lord a free-born and clean virgin, without blot, and now everything has changed by I don’t know who—
“Neither course avails me at all, to speak up or to be silent. If I tell the truth then the daughter of David must die, losing her life through stones. The situation is even stronger if I should cover up her crime— the perjurer must live afterwards hated by all peoples, abominated by men.”
Then the virgin revealed the righteous mysteries, and spoke thus: “I shall speak the truth by the Son of the Measurer, the Helper of Souls, that I still know nothing of the caresses of any man in any place on earth, but it was granted to me, youthful in the yard, that the high-angel of heaven, Gabriel gave me greeting.
“He spoke to me soothfully that the Spirit of the Skies would illuminate me with light, and the life’s majesty I must bear forth, the Bright Son, the powerful Child of God, the Brilliant Origin of Glory. Now I am made into his temple without stain, and inside me the Soul of Comfort indwells. Now abandon all sorrowful thoughts of pain.
“Speak your neverending thanks to the famous Son of the Measurer that I am become his mother, though still a virgin, and that you will be called his worldly father in the eyes of men—this prophecy must be realized in his own person.” (164-213)
Hail Almighty Christ, peaceable and true King of All Kings!
Before every majesty of the entire world you were conceived
becoming a child with your Glory-Father by his craft and his might!
There is now no nobleman under the windy sky, no perspicacious man,
surpassingly wise that he can speak of this to sea-dwelling men,
or righteously relate how the Holder of Heaven in the beginning
hatched you as his free-born son.
Of the many things that the kindred of men have frained among the folk,
what first happened under the heavens at the start of the world,
was that Wise God, the Starting-Point of Life, divided divinely
light and shadow, and the power of judgment was his,
and the Lord of Hosts ordained this subtle thing:
“Let there become light from now, evermore until the end of the world,
a sparkling joy to all that live which will be born
in their generation.” And it happened at once, when it should be so—
illuminated rays the tribes of men, brilliant among the stars,
after the arrival of the proper time.
He established himself that you were his Son dwelling at the same instant
with your Solitary Lord before any of this even happened.
You are the wisdom which created everything of this spacious creation,
along with the Sovereign. Therefore there is no one so quick-witted,
nor so mind-crafty that can clearly affirm
your inception to the children of men.
Come now, Warden of Victories, Measurer of Mankind,
fixed in grace reveal to us here your mercy!
There is in all of us a great desire to be allowed to understand
your mother’s kindred, the righteous mystery, since we cannot at all
explain any farther your father’s descent.
Make joyous this middle-earth mildly through your coming here, Savior Christ—
command those golden gates to be opened wide, which have in days of old,
for a very long time, stood closed fast, Highest Lord of Heaven—
and seek us out through your own arrival humbly to the earth.
There is need of your mercies! The cursed wolf, the beast of death’s shadow,
has brought your flock, O Lord, to naught, scattering them widely.
The sheep, my Sovereign, you bought before with your blood
which the baleful foe woefully afflicts, and takes them captive
for himself, over the urging of our desires.
Therefore we, Savior, entreat you earnestly with our breasts’ thoughts
that you quickly render us assistance, weary wretches, so that the tormenting slayer
may tumble into abjection to the depths of hell, and the work of your hands,
Shaper of Heroes, may arise and arrive at the right,
into that upward and noble kingdom, whence the dark ghast
drew us apart and seduced us through our sinful lust, so that we, lacking glory,
must suffer misery forever without end, unless you,
Eternal Lord, the Living God, Helmet of All Creatures, wish to defend us
more readily, from the destroyer of peoples. (214-74)
O you are the most famous of middle-earth, the cleanest queen across the earth— of those who have been to the ends of life— how rightfully all speech-bearing men all over the world, call you and say, with a blithe mind, that you should be the bride of the best Dispenser of the Skies.
Likewise, the highest in the heavens, the thanes of Christ, call out and sing with holy might that you should be the lady of the glorious armies, and of the worldly-kinds, the orders under heaven, and the denizens of hell also.
Because you alone of all humans, bold-thinking, gloriously conceived that you would bring your maiden-head before the Measurer, giving it to him without sin.
No one like this has been found no one else among all humankind, no woman adorned with rings, who offered this shining gift afterwards with a pure heart, to the heavenly hue.
Therefore the First of Victories ordered his high-herald to fly here from his majestic might and swiftly reveal the magnitude of his power, that you were to conceive the Son of the Lord through a pure pregnancy as a mercy to mankind, and you, Mary, could keep yourself ever afterward unmarred —
We have also heard that, a certain prophet soothfast in the days of yore long ago— he was Isaiah—said this about you: that he was taken away so he could be shown the station of life in that eternal home.
Then the prophet so fixed in his wisdom looked over that inhabited place until he stared where a noble entryway was established. The huge door was bound all over with precious treasure, girded with amazing braces.
He was convinced that no human could ever heave up such a fixed bolt in all eternity, or unlock the fastening of that city’s gate—before an angel of God with thoughts of gladness unraveled that puzzle and spoke these words:
“I can say to you that it will come true: that God himself, by the power of his Spirit, the Father Almighty will at a moment to come shall sanctify these golden gates and seek out the earth through these fastened locks— they will stand behind him for eternity, always and in perpetuity, so closed up so that no other, except the Savior God, shall unlock them ever again.”
Now it is fulfilled what the wise man saw there with his own eyes— you are the door in the wall, through which the Wielding Lord made his journey alone to the earth, and even so Christ Almighty found you, adorned with powers, pure and choice. So the Prince of Angels, Dispenser of Life, locked you up behind him with his limb-key, again unblemished by any thing.
Show us now the grace which the angel brought you, the message-bearer of God, Gabriel. Indeed the city-dwellers beg you for this, that you should reveal comfort for the people, your own son. Afterwards we may be allowed to celebrate all with a single heart when we look upon the bairn upon your breast.
Plead for us with your courageous words so that he will no longer abandon us in any wise in this deadly valley, to heed the words of the betrayer, but instead ferry us into the Father’s realm, where we without sorrow may afterwards dwell in glory with the God of Hosts. (275-347)
Hail holy Lord of the Heavens, you were coeval with your father of old in that excellent home.
There were no angels yet made, none of that ample and powerful majesty which administer the realm
up in the heavens, the splendid palace of the Prince and his body of thanes,
when you first established yourself along with the Eternal Lord and this spacious creation,
the broad and abundant earth. For both of you in common is the High-Spirit fast in its shelter.
We all pray to you, Savior Christ, in all humility that you hear the voice of the hostages,
your constrained captives, preserving God, how we are all oppressed by our own yearning.
The exiled kindred, the cursed ghasts have constrained us cruelly, the hell-harmers full of hate,
binding us with ropes of many harms. The cure belongs to you alone, Eternal Lord.
Help the body-sorrowing, so that your hither-coming might comfort the destitute,
although we have made a feud against you with our lust for every sort of crime.
Be merciful to your servants, consider our miseries, how we totter with a feeble mind,
wander about abjectly. Come now, King of Warriors, and do not tarry too long.
There is a need for your mercy— that you should redeem us and grant us the soothfast
grace of your salvation, so that we may henceforth prosper the better
in your fellowship at your will. (348-77)
Hail the divine and dignified, high and holy, heaven-kindly Trinity, blessed across the broad and abundant plains, who the speech-bearers, the dejected earth-dwellers must by rights praise highly with all their means, now that the pledge-fast God has revealed to us the Savior so that we are able to understand him.
Therefore they, deed-brave, have been endowed with glory, so that the soothfast kindred of the Seraphim, glorying upwards among the angels forever, unwearying they sing of majesty very loftily with a loud voice, fair to all far and near.
They hold an office most choice with their king— and Christ granted it to them, so that they might brook his presence at the table in their eyes for ever and ever, adorned with the sky, worthying the Wielder widely and broadly, and with their wings ward over the face of the Lord Almighty, the Eternal Ruler, and about the princely seat they eagerly throng— whichever of them can bounce in flight nearest to our Savior in those peaceful yards.
They adore the Dear One and in dazzling light they call these words to him, glorifying the noble Originator of all creation: “Holy you are, holy, Lord of the High-Angels, True Power of Victories, always you shall be holy, Lord of All Lords! Always shall your splendor abide, earthly among mankind—through all time widely worthied. You are the God of Armies, because you filled both earth and heaven, Shelter of Warriors, with your glories, Helmet of All Creatures!
Let there be in the heights eternal salvation, and praises on the earth, bright among the warriors. You are blessed dearly, who came to the multitudes in the name of the Lord, as a comfort to the abject. May you be the eternal praises of the lofty heavens forever without end.” (378-415)
Hail and behold! What a marvelous exchange in the lives of men, that the Gentle Shaper of humankind should take up sinless flesh in a woman, who knows naught of the caress of a man, nor did the Owner of Victories come through the seed of any man on earth— but it was a keener craft than all the earth-dwellers could comprehend due to its mysterious nature. How he, Triumph of the Skies, High-Lord of Heaven, effected help for humankind through his mother’s womb. And so going forth, the Savior of the People deals out every day his forgiveness as a help to men, the Lord of Hosts. Therefore let us praise him faithfully and vigorously in our words and deeds. It is a lofty counsel in every person that always keeps the memory, that most often, most inwardly, and most eagerly that they should honor God.
He shall reward them with recompense of his love, the hallowed Savior himself, even in the homeland where had never come, in the delights of the land of the living, where he shall blessedly afterwards abide, and inhabit to the fullness of life without end. Amen. (416-39)
More in The Fellowship: Lewis, Tolkien And The Inklings
March 27, 2019The Fellowship: C. S. Lewis, Tolkien and The Inklings - The Silver Chair
March 20, 2019C. S. Lewis - "The Silver Chair"
March 13, 2019C. S. Lewis: "The Silver Chair"