Friday, March 9, 2012

The Offering Of The New Law, The One Oblation Once Offered

Christina Rossetti by Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson, 1863 

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is best known for her long poem "Goblin Market," her love poem "Remember", and for the words of what became the popular Christmas carol "In the Bleak Midwinter."

Christina was born in London and educated at home by her mother. Her father, Gabriele Rossetti, was an Italian poet and a political asylum seeker from Naples; their mother, Frances Polidori, was the sister of Lord Byron's friend and physician, John William Polidori, author of "The Vampyre." Christina’s brothers and sisters became famous, especially Dante Gabriel, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite school.

When she was 14, Christina suffered a nervous breakdown, which was followed by bouts of depression and related illness. During this period she, her mother, and her sister became deeply involved in the Anglo-Catholic revival in the Church of England, not just in terms of worship, devotion and the spiritual life, but also in working voluntarily in what today we would call “welfare ministry.”

Christina began writing at the age of 7, but she was 18 when her first published poem appeared in the Athenaeum magazine. Her most famous collection, "Goblin Market and Other Poems", appeared in 1862, when she was 31.

Her Christmas poem "In the Bleak Midwinter" became widely known after her death when set as a Christmas carol first by Gustav Holst, and then by Harold Darke. Her poem "Love Came Down at Christmas" is also well known as a carol.

Christina continued to write and publish for the rest of her life, although she focused primarily on devotional writing and children's poetry. In the later decades of her life, she suffered from Graves Disease. In 1893 she developed cancer, and died in December 1894.

For nearly a century Christina's works were largely forgotten, until their rediscovery in the late 20th century. She is now lauded as one of the greatest poets of the Victorian age.

Go HERE to read the chapter on Christina Rossetti by Desmond Morse-Boycott in Lead, Kindly Light :
 Studies of Saints and Heroes of the Oxford Movement.

The Offering Of The New Law, 
The One Oblation Once Offered Once

I thought to sit so high
In the Palace of the sky;
Now, I thank God for His Grace,
If I may fill the lowest place.

Once I thought to scale so soon
Heights above the changing moon;
Now, I thank God for delay—
To-day, it yet is called to-day.

While I stumble, halt and blind,
Lo! He waiteth to be kind;
Bless me soon, or bless me slow,
Except He bless, I let not go.

Once for earth I laid my plan,
Once I leaned on strength of man,
When my hope was swept aside,
I stayed my broken heart on pride:

Broken reed hath pierced my hand;
Fell my house I built on sand;
Roofless, wounded, maimed by sin,
Fightings without and fears within:

Yet, a tree, He feeds my root;
Yet, a branch, He prunes for fruit;
Yet, a sheep, these eves and morns,
He seeks for me among the thorns.

With Thine Image stamped of old,
Find Thy coin more choice than gold;
Known to Thee by name, recall
To Thee Thy home-sick prodigal.

Sacrifice and Offering
None there is that I can bring,
None, save what is Thine alone:
I bring Thee, Lord, but of Thine Own—

Broken Body, Blood Outpoured,
These I bring, my God, my Lord;
Wine of Life, and Living Bread,
With these for me Thy Board is spread.

Christina Rossetti was the model for the Virgin Mary 
in the painting ‘Ecce Ancilla Domini’ 
(The Annunciation), 1849-1850, 
by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti


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