Meditating upon this, the poet Patrick Carey, a Benedictine monk (d.1651), gives us a very different image of Christ in the Cradle from the cosy Nativity scenes we see and it has been set to music by Kenneth Leighton, a Yorkshire-born composer in his cantata, 'Crucifixus pro nobis, op.38':
"Look, how he shakes for cold!
How pale his lips are grown!
Wherein his limbs to fold
Yet mantle has he none.
His pretty feet and hand
(Of late more pure and white
Than is the snow
That pains them so)
Have lost their candour quite.
His lips are blue
(Where roses grew).
He’s frozen everywhere:
All th’heat he has
Gives in a groan; or Mary in a tear."
Below is a hymn I partially composed in 2002 for my parish of St Stephen's in Skipton, North Yorkshire. It is based on an older hymn by C. Meyer, SJ which I re-modelled and adapted. It was intended to be sung to the tune 'Blaenwern' (87.87.D):
First to shed your blood for him.
What bright glory now surrounds you,
Glory which no time can dim!
O that we could share that glory;
Serving him with life and blood!
Let us praise your noble story,
Told with life’s own crimson flood.
Stephen, full of grace and power,
Preaching the Good News abroad
, And enlivened by the Spirit,
You gave witness to the Word.
Called to serve and feed God’s people,
Faithful, though opposed by Saul.
This is Christ’s own Way you teach us -
Active love for one and all.
Noble witness you did render
To the Passion of your Lord:
Bearing, with a love courageous,
Blows of stones more keen than sword.
Mindful of our loving Saviour
Showing mercy from the Cross,
You raised up your eyes to heaven
Praying mercy on your foes.
Glory be to God the Father,
And to Christ his only Son,
Who at God’s right, with the Spirit,
Reigns while endless ages run.
Grant O Lord, that like Saint Stephen,
We too may receive the grace,
To see heaven’s gates thrown open
And at last behold your face."
The photo above of a stained-glass window of St Stephen is from his church in Skipton. I wish their parish priest, Rev Fr Peter Dawber and the parishioners a blessed and happy Feast day!