Advent to Candlemas (Vol. 3)

No Lamb So Beauteous

i. (Choir)

The whole world groans in anguish for the day
When our Creator's promise will be kept
That we, unbound from Adam's bondage may
Become, once tarnished vessels, cleaned and swept.
The days grow darker outside and within,
Oppression's burden crowned with anxious hope,
Our cheerfulness grows brittle, sharp and thin,
The best that we can manage is to cope.

Yet that which is most brittle shines most bright,
Its glittering teases as the day draws near;
Redemption, once miasma, comes in sight,
Impatience knuckles loose the bonds of fear:
Lord Jesus come, come quickly down to earth,
Dispel our gloom with infant cries of peace,
Reward our fickle patience with your birth,
Fulfil the long-held promise of release.

ii. (Sopranos/Altos)

Against the darkening winter wind
A donkey slithers down the stones
Sharpening her pain,
Sapping youth's vibrancy,
Reducing her to aching flesh and bones.

Lamps lure the beast and stay the pain,
The spitting welcome brings relief;
Callous disdain,
Equivocating pregnancy,
The outcast straw, strewn roughly, softens grief.

Low cries the child, too weak for lust,
Too slight to bear the sloth and crime,
Born to sustain
Incarnate mystery:
The shadow of the Cross falls back in time.

iii. (Alto or Soprano)

So far away the angel's message sounds
As restless soldiers tramp the market place;
I wonder if I dreamed that miracle
Or harbour a delusion of my grace.

Perhaps it is the fire in my womb
Extinguished by cold terror in my breast
Which assuages and torments me by turns:
But for the moment, Lord, just give us rest.

Enough of introspection's ebb and flow,
However formed and born, he is my son,
I am the only mother that he knows,
And we will finish what we have begun.

iv. (Men)

(Series of solos)
Not like the shepherds we have heard of Greece,
From travellers tales,
Lush grass and blooming maidens
Gaudy of attire and gifted
In the Terpsichorean art:

Ours is a parched life, sparse
And outcast of the supple softness of caress:
Bound to our spindly sheep and yet
We love them as if their fleeces
Were fit for palaces.

(All men)

     But Grecians never heard such thunderous choirs,
     Of angels far surpassing their mean lyres;
     No messenger of Zeus has ever brought,
     Such joyful news to meeting house and court:
          No lamb so beauteous, worthy to adorn
     The crib of this sweet child, Messiah born.

v. (Choir)

Mysterious tidings billow round the inn,
Shepherds are feted then despised;
The subjects of their gossip darkly fled,
The angel vaulted hope unrealised.

What of mysterious omens in the sky?
Hope always vanquished by despair,
The bane of drudgery ruts palsied breasts
Dissolving promises in fetid air.

Insinuating rumours breed mistrust;
What is the crime? Who is to blame?
The questions are redundant as the guilty
And the innocent will be treated just the same.

vi. (Baritone)

His eyes light with the glitter of strange gold
As agents tally cargo at the gate;
But darken as his courtiers relate
What prophets and these men have both foretold:
Yet cunning glues him to his fragile throne;
His undeceiving smile sends them away
Knowing the court he promises to pay
Will be to himself or will not be done.
They drop their gifts in haste and fluff their lines
And, well advised, shun Herod's courtesy;
The slaughter was not foretold in the signs,
Nor why the child was worth such cruelty:
But wisdom's pride and arms which make a king
Will be transformed by this child's suffering.

vii. (Choir)

"A Life" confined to childhood yields small truths;
The manger teaches but the Cross restores;
God in our flesh breaks into time and space
But victory over death destroys all laws.

For we will die in Christ awaiting him
To end this world and heaven, to re-create
Our selves complete in corporate harmony
With God and humankind in perfect state.