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Sunday, 24 December 2006

A quote for Christmas

Praise the Holy Spirit for bringing to my mind this quotation from the works of Newman. I first read it when I was a callow youth at Oxford. The sermon was recommended to me by my good friend, John Hayes who was reading English at Keble. (Say a prayer for John - he has suffered from ill health for many years.) I learnt it off by heart and was saddened a couple of years later to see how it had been misused by James Joyce in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Newman's use of English was superb; I would be happy to have a hundredth of his mastery of our language which can be so beautiful. Here it is - my Christmas present to you, my kind readers. Read it out loud and learn it by heart! After all those years, it still makes me weep.
He once had meant to come on earth in heavenly glory, but we sinned; and then He could not safely visit us, except with a shrouded radiance and a bedimmed Majesty, for He was God. So He came Himself in weakness, not in power; and He sent thee, a creature, in His stead, with a creature's comeliness and lustre suited to our state. And now thy very face and form, dear Mother, speak to us of the Eternal; not like earthly beauty, dangerous to look upon, but like the morning star, which is thy emblem, bright and musical, breathing purity, telling of heaven, and infusing peace. O harbinger of day! O hope of the pilgrim! lead us still as thou hast led; in the dark night, across the bleak wilderness, guide us on to our Lord Jesus, guide us home.
John Henry Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congretations 17 (second sermon on the Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son)
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