Blessed be He who Became Beyond Measure Low, that He Might Make us Beyond Measure Great)
(Resp. -- Blessed be he who became beyond measure low, that he might make us beyond measure great)

1. Of the Birth of the Firstborn, let us tell on His Feast-day. [505] -- He gives on His day, secret comforts. -- If the unclean King at his feast, in memory of his day, -- gave the gift of wrath, the head in a charger, -- how much more shall the Blessed, give blessings to him -- who sings praise at His Feast!

2. Let us not count our vigil like vigils of every day. -- His feast, its reward, exceeds an hundredfold. -- For this feast makes war, on sleep by its vigil; -- speaking it makes war, on silence by its voice; -- clad with all blessings, it is chief of feasts, -- and of every joy.

3. To-day the angels, and the archangels, -- descended to sing -- a new song on earth. -- In this mystery they descend, and rejoice with the vigil-keepers. -- At the time when they gave praise, blasphemy abounded. -- Blessed be the Birth by which, lo! the world resounds -- with anthems of praise.

4. For this is the night that joined, the Watchers on high with the vigil-keepers. -- The Watcher came to make watchers in the midst of creation. -- Lo! the vigil-keepers are made comrades with the Watchers: -- the singers of praise are made, companions of the Seraphs. -- Blessed be he who becomes, the harp of Thy praise! -- and Thy grace becomes his reward.

5. The Birth then of the Firstborn, I will sing and tell how -- the Godhead in the womb wove itself a vesture. -- He put it on and came forth in birth, in death again put it off; -- once he put it off, twice He put it on. -- On the left He wore it, then took it off thence, -- and laid it at the right.

6. He dwelt in a narrow bosom, the Might that rules all. -- While He was dwelling there, He held the reins of the whole: -- to His Father He made offering, that He might fulfil His Will: -- Heaven was filled by Him, and every creature. -- The Sun entered the womb, and in the height and the depth -- his splendour abode.

7. He dwelt in the wide bosoms, of all the creatures; -- too narrow to hold, the greatness of the Firstborn. -- How then sufficed for it, that bosom of Mary? -- Marvellous if it sufficed, bewilderment if it sufficed not. -- Of all bosoms that held Him, one bosom sufficed for Him, -- His, the Supreme Who begat Him.

8. The bosom that held Him, if it held Him Wholly, -- equals the wondrous bosom, of the Supreme Who begat Him. -- But who dare say the bosom, that is narrow weak and lowly, -- is equal to His, Who is the Supreme Being? -- He dwelt there of His mercy, though so great is His Nature: -- it is without bound.

9. Reconciling Peace, sent to the nations! -- gladdening Brightness, that camest to the sad! -- Mighty Leaven in silence, overcoming all! -- Patient One that hast taken, man after man in Thy net! -- Happy he who has welcomed, thy joy in his heart, -- and forgot his groans in Thee!

10. They sounded forth peace, the Watchers to the
vigil-keepers. -- Among the vigil-keepers the good tidings, were announced by the Watchers. -- Who would sleep on that night, which has waked all creatures? -- For they bear good tidings of peace, where warfare had been. -- Blessed is he who has pleased, the Divine Majesty by his silence, -- when speaking moved His wrath!

11. Watchers mixed with watchers, they rejoiced that the world came to life. -- The Evil One was shamed who was king, and had woven a crown of lies; -- and set up his throne, as God in the world. -- The Babe laid in the manger, cast him from his dominion. -- The Sun rendered worship, doing Him homage by his Magi; -- in his worshippers he worshipped Him.

12. God saw that mankind, worship things created: -- He put on a created body, that in our custom He might capture us. -- Lo! in this our form, He that formed us healed us; -- and in this created shape, our Creator gave us life. -- He drew us not by force: blessed be He Who came in ours, -- and joined us in His!

13. Who would not marvel, at Mary, David's daughter, -- bearing an infant, and her virginity kept! -- She lays Him on her breast, and lulls Him with song and He rejoices. -- The Angels raise hymns, the Seraphs cry "Holy," -- the Magi offer, acceptable gifts, -- to the Son Who is born.

14. O great above measure, immeasurably made low, -- praised beyond praises, debased to humiliation! -- the tender mercies laid on Thee, bowed Thee down to all this; -- let Thy grace bow me down, though evil to give praise! -- Happy he who becomes, a fountain of voices, -- all praising Thee in all!

15. He was servant on earth; He is Lord in Heaven. -- Heir of height and depth, He became a stranger: -- Whom men judged in guile, He is judge in truth: -- He Whose face they spat on, breathes His Spirit on theirs: -- He Who held the frail reed, is become the staff of the world, -- which grows old and leans on Him.

16. He Who rose to wait on His servants, now sits to be worshipped. -- Whom the scribes despised, before Him Seraphs cry "Holy." -- This praise Adam desired, to steal privily. -- The serpent which made him fall, saw to what height he was raised: -- he crushed it because it deceived him; the feet of Eve trod it down, -- which had sent venom into her ears.

17. The wife proved barren, and withheld her fruit; -- but the bosom of Mary, holily conceived. -- To wonder at fields, and to admire plants -- she needed not who received, and rendered what she borrowed not. -- Nature confessed its defeat; the womb was aware of it, -- and restored what Nature gave not.

18. Mary was defeated, in the judgment by Elizabeth. -- She that was barren pleaded, that the Will which prevailed -- to close the open door, has opened the closed. -- He has made childless the married womb; He has made fruitful the virgin womb. -- Because the People were accurst faithless, He made her that was married, -- held from bearing before the face of the maiden.

19. He Who could give moisture, to breasts barren and dead, -- caused them to fail in youth, made them to flow in age; -- forced and changed nature, in its season and out of its season. -- The Lord of natures changed, the Virgin's nature. -- Because the People were barren, He made her that was aged, -- a mouth on behalf of the damsel.

20. And as He began at birth, He went on and fulfilled in death. -- His Birth received worship; His Death paid the debt. -- As He came to His Birth, the Magi worshipped Him; -- again He came to His Passion, and the thief sought refuge in Him -- Between His Birth and Death, midway He set the world: -- in birth and Death he gave it life.

21. Thousand thousands stand, and ten thousand thousands haste. -- The thousands and ten thousands, cannot search out the One: -- for all of them stand, in silence to serve. -- He has no heir of His Throne, save the Son Who is of Him. -- In the midst of silence is the enquiry into Him, when the watchers come to search Him out, -- they attain to silence and are stayed.

22. The Firstborn entered the womb, and the pure Virgin was not harmed. -- He stirred and came forth in her travail, and the fair Mother was troubled by Him. -- Glorious and unseen in entering, humble and manifest in issuing; -- for He was God in entering, and He was man in issuing. -- A marvel and bewilderment to hear: fire entered the womb; put on a body and came forth!

23. Gabriel chief of Angels, called Him "My Lord": -- he called Him "My Lord," to teach that He was his Lord, not his fellow. -- Gabriel had with him, Michael as fellow: -- the Son is Lord of the servants; exalted is His Nature as His Name. -- No servant can search Him out; for the greater the servant, -- He is great above His servant.

24. When they stand before Thee, the watchers with songs of praise, -- they know not in what part, they shall discern Thee. -- They have sought Thee above in the height; they have seen Thee below in the depth: -- they have searched for Thee in the midst of heaven; they have seen Thee in the midst of the abyss: -- they have discerned Thee beside Him that is worshipped; they have found Thee in the midst of the creatures: -- they have come down to Thee and sung Glory to Thee.

25. Thou art all wonderful, in all parts where we seek Thee. -- Near art Thou, -- and far, and who may attain to Thee? -- No seeking avails, that its stretch should reach unto Thee. -- Whereon it stretches to reach Thee, it is checked and stops, -- it falls short of Thy mountain; Faith reaches thither, -- and Love with prayer.

26. The Magi also sought Him, and in the manger when they found Him, -- instead of scrutiny worship, they offered Him in silence; -- for empty strivings, oblations gave they Him. -- Seek thou too the Firstborn, and if thou find Him in the height, -- instead of troubled questionings, open thy treasures before Him, -- and offer Him thy works.


[505] See p. 177 n.

hymn xiii for the epiphany
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