Sunday, December 22, 2013

Here is the little door

Here is the little door,
lift up the latch, oh lift!
We need not wander more,
but enter with our gift;
Our gift of finest gold.
Gold that was never bought or sold;
Myrrh to be strewn about his bed;
Incense in clouds about His head;
All for the child that stirs not in His sleep,
But holy slumber hold with ass and sheep.

Bend low about His bed,
For each He has a gift;
See how His eyes awake,
Lift up your hands, O lift!
For gold, He gives a keen-edged sword.
(Defend with it thy little Lord!)
For incense, smoke of battle red,
Myrrh for the honored happy dead;
Gifts for His children, terrible and sweet;
Touched by such tiny hands,
and Oh such tiny feet.

Poem by Frances Chesterton, Music by Herbert Howells

The poem was written by the wife of G. K. Chesterton, the English author, and sent as a Christmas greeting to Herbert Howells, who used it as the basis for an anthem which has become rather famous in Anglican church music. Written during WWI, it is reflective of a time when a whole generation of men were lost in battle. Listen to Howell's setting here. I'll be singing it in church this morning. 

The red door itself? No, it's not in the country, but rather, in the heart of Manhattan, on 6th Avenue and 20th Street. Originally the Church of the Holy Communion, the building was deconsecrated and sold, and became the infamous Limelight disco before turning into a shopping mall—an ignominious end to lovely building, I read last week that it will now become a David Barton gym. 

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