Friday, 24 December 2010

The Nativity, Mary, and Edwin Muir

Over the past four evenings I've watched The Nativity and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've heard a number of criticisms, some reasonable, but overall I thought it was one of the best tv accounts of a Bible story I've seen.   And there were moments in the final episode that were were stunning.

What I won't forget is the way that it presented the huge cost to Mary, who was prepared to lose everything, and the tortured anguish that Joseph experienced. I thought that the casting of the particular woman to be with Mary through the birth was a touch of brilliance, and the instant when Joseph's hand clasped Mary's as the stars coalesced and the baby was born brought out the tissues!

During the season of Advent I've been especially struck by poems about the Annunciation. From the tradition of which I've been a part, Mary has been someone largely ignored. Over the last few years, through art especially, I've come to a new appreciation of this remarkable woman, which was only enriched by The Nativity. 

I've been reminded of Noel Rowe's Magnificat, and yesterday I read again some of Luci Shaw's wonderful poems in, Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnation. On the first Sunday of Advent, at the Advent Carol Service at Christ the Cornerstone, we heard Edwin Muir's poem, The Annunciation: 

The angel and the girl are met, 

Earth was the only meeting place, 

For the embodied never yet 

Travelled beyond the shore of space. 

The eternal spirits in freedom go. 

See, they have come together, see, 

While the destroying minutes flow, 

Each reflects the other's face 

Till heaven in hers and earth in his 

Shine steady there. He's come to her 

From far beyond the farthest star, 

Feathered through time.
of strangest strangeness is the bliss 

That from their limbs all movement takes. 

Yet the increasing rapture brings 

So great a wonder that it makes 

Each feather tremble on his wings. 

Outside the window footsteps fall 

Into the ordinary day 

And with the sun along the wall 

Pursue their unreturning way 

That was ordained in eternity. 

Sound's perpetual roundabout 

Rolls its numbered octaves out 

And hoarsely grinds its battered tune. 

But through the endless afternoon 

These neither speak nor movement make, 

But stare into their deepening trance 

As if their gaze would never break.