Saturday, February 12, 2011

Her Virgin Eyes

Congratulations to the newest clergyman of the Ordinariate for England and Wales, Deacon Edwin Barnes, formerly emeritus Bishop of Richborough, who was ordained to the Catholic diaconate yester-day, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (and World Day of Prayer for the Sick).  He mentioned on his blog that the opening hymn at the Mass of Ordination was Thomas Ken's "Her Virgin eyes saw God Incarnate born", a fine example indeed of Anglican Patrimony entirely orthodox and catholic.

Curious as to its original text, I did some digging, and found that this hymn is a cento from a much longer poem in pious veneration of Our Lady's whole life, which appeared first in 1721, in a posthumous collection of his hymns or poems on the Christian Year, and was luckily available in toto via Google Books.  I subjoin the entire text below, noting only that the hymn extracted from it is composed of lines 105-8, 115-122 and 183-6 thereof.  It is interesting, though unsurprising, how what Ken writes of the childhood and youth of the Blessed Virgin, what her occupations, what her devotion, what her virtues, seems to recapitulate what St Ambrose wrote upon that subject.


His mother kept all theſe ſayings in her heart.
St. Luke ii. 51.

GOD, Who is pleaſed bright Angels down to 
ſend, 1

On purpoſe little children to attend; 

When bleſſed Mary firſt drew vital air, 

Entruſted her to a bright ſeraph’s care; 

The aged Saints, who for a child had pray’d, 
Sang hymns to God when joyful parents made; 

Devoted God’s free gift to God alone, 

And more God’s child eſteem’d her than their own; 

Her ſeraph kept her in his ſweet embrace, 

No one foul ſpirit durſt approach the place; 
The Holy Ghoſt His temple in her built, 

Cleanſed from congenial, kept from mortal guilt; 

And from the moment that her blood was fired, 

Into her heart Celeſtial Love inſpired. 
The babe, when ſhe began to ſpeak, was taught 15

To conſecrate to God her tongue and thought,
And, prompted by her ſeraph, took delight 
Continual hallelujahs to recite ; 

Her phylacteries next ſhe by degrees 

Had learn’d, and to repeat them on her knees; 20

Thoſe which the love of God ſincere enjoin’d 

Affected moſt her heaven-enkindled mind : 

When ſhe began to read God’s holy book, 

In which ſhe her initiation took, 

Her ſoul was with a heavenly manna fed, 25

Her ſpirit taſted every truth ſhe read ; 

And ere ſhe ſaw two weeks of years complete 

She the whole pſalter could by heart repeat; 

From types, and what the propheſies foretold, 

Which ſhe, by Heaven enlighten’d, could unfold, 
She the idea of Meſſias drew, 

Pray’d for His advent, kept Him ſtill in view; 

Seven times a-day ſhe to her cloſet went, 

Her fervent love in fervent prayer to vent ; 

And her unwearied zeal was wont to pray 
By warm ejaculations all the day ; 

She in the depth of her ſerene repoſe 

At midnight to her ſolemn office roſe : 

As ſhe grew up love daily gain’d new heights, 

And ſhe from them began ſublimer flights. 
No Angel who e’er human likeneſs took 

Had a more chaſte, ſweet, charming, heavenly look, 

A look, which all at the firſt ſight revered, 

And while it ſtruck a ſacred awe endear’d ; 

Plain, cleanly, and becoming was her dreſs, 
Had nothing curious, nothing of exceſs; 
She idleneſs, the peſt of ſouls to ſhun,
In intervals of prayer her garments ſpun ;
Soon as herſelf ſhe decently array’d,
She veſtments for the poor and naked made ; 50
Charity, next to Heaven, abſorb’d her care,
The poor, in every meal ſhe eat, had ſhare ;
Her cloſet-meditations moſt ſublime,
Where with her God alone ſhe ſpent her time ;
Her languors, bleſſ’d Meſſias to behold, 55
Spring-tides of Heaven, whicho’er her ſpirit roll’d;
Humility, which all proud thoughts ſuppreſs’d,
As if no one perfection ſhe poſſeſs’d,
Her will transfuſed into the will Divine,
Accuſtom’d with God’s will to co-incline; 60
Her ſanctity to God’s true likeneſs grown,
Her frequent viſits from the glorious throne
A ſilent admiration may create,
None but her guardian ſeraph can relate.
To parents, next to God, ſhe reverence paid, 
They ſweetly ruled, as ſweetly ſhe obey’d ; 

She was the ſubject of their prayer and praiſe, 

Their tender nurſe in their declining days; 

Heaven warn’d them their dear daughter to commend 
To reverend Joſeph’s care, their ancient friend, 70

A ſaint, who would her purity protect, 

And treat her with angelical reſpect; 

To her dear parents’ choice ſhe choſe to yield, 

And the eſpouſals ſolemnly were ſeal’d; 

Gabriel meanwhile from bliſs flew down full-ſpeed, 75
To tell her as ſhe pray’d that Heaven decreed 

She the Meſſias in her womb ſhould bear, 

Whoſe ſight had been the ſubject of her prayer; 

The boundleſs might of Fontal Love Divine 

The love co-breathed, third of the Glorious Trine, 
On thee deſcending ſhall thy womb diſpoſe 

Great filial God incarnate to incloſe ; 

She ſcarcely could believe her ears and eyes, 

The meſſage had ſuch rapturous ſurpriſe, 

Till Gabriel her aſſured it was God’s will, 
Which ’twas her ſole ambition to fulfil; 

And as he back to Heaven his flight began 

In a love tranſport ſhe conceived God-man ; 

While Godhead templing in her womb remain’d, 

What influence from God within ſhe gain’d, 
What ſuavities, loves, languors, ardours, lights, 

Joys, jubilations, beatific ſights, 

What rapts when ſhe Magnificats compoſed, 

Or when t’ Eliſa Gabriel’s news diſcloſed, 

Her ſpirit fill’d, no poetry can gueſs, 
Herſelf could never what ſhe felt expreſs. 

Joſeph with jealous eye her change beheld, 

Till a bright Angel all his doubts diſpell’d ; 

Then both at Nazareth lived a bliſsful life, 

Moſt tender huſband, moſt ſubmiſſive wife ; 
Their chaſtity was free from ſenſual taints, 

Their mutual love pure, as in heavenly Saints ; 
His Angel and her Seraph could not join 

In friendſhip more endearing, more divine. 
When ſhe to Bethlehem came that happy morn, 
Her virgin-eyes ſaw God incarnate born ; 

How high her raptures then began to ſwell, 

None but her own omniſcient Son can tell; 

God-man, who deigns to temple in pure hearts, 

A wondrous love to common ſaints imparts, 
Gives them of heavenly love foretaſting ſight, 

To comprehend its length, breadth, depth, and height ; 

Much greater love to His dear Mother ſhew’d, 

Heaven in ſweet deluge on her ſpirit flow’d; 

As Eve when ſhe her fontal ſin review’d, 
Wept for herſelf, and all ſhe ſhould include ; 

Bleſs’d Mary, with man’s Saviour in embrace, 

Joy’d for herſelf, and for all human race; 

All Saints are by her Son’s dear influence bleſs’d, 

She kept the very fountain at her breaſt ; 
The Son adored and nurſed by the ſweet maid, 
A thouſand-fold of love for love repaid ; 

Saints, who of God have beatific view, 

Such mighty joys peculiar never knew ; 

They to hymn God as vot’ries are employ’d, 
As mother of the God they hymn’d, ſhe joy’d. 
But yet to temper rapturous exceſs, 

Her joys below were mingled with diſtreſs ; 

When ſhe a mother, yet a virgin pure, 

Purification legal would endure : 
Simeon, who honour’d was God-man to hold, 

The ſword, which ſhould the Mother pierce, foretold, 

Her Son was born our griefs to undergo, 
She ſweetly ſympathiſed in all His woe: 

The wound which firſt check’d her ecſtatic joy, 
Was Herod’s plot the Infant to deſtroy; 

But warn’d by Heaven, to Egypt ſhe took flight, 

God cured that wound by baffling Herod’s ſpite; 

Babe, Virgin, Joſeph, when the ſtorm was o’er, 

Return’d to Nazareth, where they lived before, 
There humble and obſcure the parents dwelt, 

And of their Son, God-man, the bleſſings felt; 

Above two luſtres in ſweet peace they ſpent, 

Then with their wondrous Son to Salem went; 

The Virgin there received a ſecond wound, 
Which ſoon was cured when the dear Child they found ; 

All three to pleaſant Nazareth then retired, 

Where Joſeph in the Virgin’s arms expired ; 
God-man Himſelf his abſolution ſpake, 
His ſpirit long’d its priſon to forſake ; 
Son then and Mother lived exempt from noiſe, 

Reciprocating heavenly loves and joys. 
Into the world ſoon as bleſs’d Jeſus came, 
His mediatory-office to proclaim, 
Bleſs’d Mary, who in her reflecting ſoul 155
Took care all Jeſu’s actions to enroll, 
Who had of ſin and Love Divine, a ſenſe 
Next to her Son, moſt lively, moſt intenſe, 
When ſhe His Love, which ſinful man redeem’d, 
Saw daily ſcorn’d, inſulted, and blaſphemed, 160
The ſword pierced daily through her tender heart, 
And ſhe of all His ſorrows felt the ſmart;
But when ſhe on the Croſs beheld God-man, 

Up to the hilt the dol’rous weapon ran. 
Soon as He left His grave her joy revived, 
She from her Son freſh ſprings of joy derived; 

To John’s dear care ſhe by her Son conſign’d, 

To his ſole manſion her abode confined ; 

The bleſs’d above adore their heavenly King, 

Contemplate, love, converſe, rejoice, and ſing, 
Thoſe were her ſole employments day and night, 

Her converſation darted heavenly light; 

To all the hours of prayer ſhe daily came, 

When any cool’d, her zeal refreſh’d their flame ; 

She to Devotion all her time applied, 
She lived as if already glorified ; 

Her love ſtill languiſh’d for the happy day, 

When to the grave ſhe ſhould reſign her clay, 

Exulting when the world ſhe was to leave, 

And her divine Viaticum receive, 
Fell ſick, and died of an exceſs of love, 

Haſt’ning to her reſtorative above ; 

Heaven with tranſcendent joys her entrance graced, 

Next to His throne her Son His Mother placed ; 

And here below, now ſhe’s of Heaven poſſeſs’d, 
All generations are to call her bleſs’d.

Bishop Ken’s Christian Year or Hymns and Poems for the Holy Days and Festivals of the Church (London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1868), pp. 58-64.

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