In the bleak midwinter at the Sabine Farm

It is bleak midwinter here at The Sabine Farm.  It is snowing now – huge featherlike slowmotion snow.  

I have music on fit for the season. I was working on the text of a sermon I will need to give soon.  My advent candles are lighted in their wreath.  I will soon build the fire in the fireplace and mull some wine as I contemplate supper after vespers in the Sabine Chapel.

In a slightly heartbreaking way this is nearly perfect.

One of my favorite hymns was just playing. The words are by Christina Rossetti. Here is some information about it.

"In The Bleak Midwinter" was written by Rossetti before 1872 but it was published posthumously first in 1904. Apparently Rossetti wrote the poem from a request of the magazine Scribner’s Weekly. The text of this Christmas hymn has been set to music by at least three composers, Gustav Holst, Harold Edwin Darke, and Thomas B. Strong.

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
with a kiss

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.

Let us look at what is going on here.

In the first verse, there is a description of the fallen state of man from the ancient Original Sin. Winter. St. Augustine wrote that fear of death is "our daily winter". Now the days get longer and things don’t seem so bleak.
In the second verse, there is the characteristic forward-backward vision of Advent and Christmas, contrasting the glory of the Second Coming with the humility of the First.
In the third verse, we hear of the self-emptying of the Eternal Word made flesh. It unites the ways in which the angelic host worships Him and Mary does: metaphysically transcendent flight and the concrete act of a mother’s loving kiss.
In the fourth verse… well …

What can you say?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Father,

    This song never fails to elicit tears from my eyes. For exactly the reasons you give. Thank you for posting it in what is truly (for this little soul, at least) a bleak midwinter.


  2. Fr Peter says:

    I wish we would get some snow here in Mass. Very warm here for the season.

  3. Have a great time in the Sabine Hills. This from memory (from my days with Reggie Foster). We recited it snowbound at the monastery of Farfa many years ago. Still warms my heart today.

    Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
    Soracte. Nec iam sustineant onus
    silvae laborantes, geluque
    flumina constiterunt acuto.

    Dissolve frigus ligna super foco
    large reponens atque benignius
    deprome quadrimum sabinae
    O Thaliarche merum diota!

  4. Fr. Finigan: Thanks for that wonderful reminder of the other Sabine Farm. The place I call The Sabine Farm, for it is my peaceful escape from the City, at is actually in the USA!

  5. Londiniensis says:

    Thank you, Fathers both, for the sweet reminders of the Rossetti and the Horace.

  6. Thomas says:

    Thank you so much Fr. Z. Of course it was nearly perfect if you were listening to the music on vinyl!

    Merry Christmas!

Comments are closed.