For the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord I thought it was fitting to share a poem of St. Robert Southwell, the English Jesuit martyr. His poem, The Burning Babe, is very beautiful and reminds us why the Son of God came into the world. He came to save souls that He might bring them into the Kingdom for life eternal with Him. In this season of joy it is important to remember that as disciples our role is to continue to bring Him to others, especially those whose hearts have grown cold, or those who do not know who He is. As we celebrate in whatever way we are used to, let us not forget those who are alone, ill, downtrodden, poor, marginalized, or outcast in any way, now and throughout the coming year. Let our hearts burn with love, as does the Babe who enters the world at Christmas.
The Burning Babe
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
~St. Robert Southwell, SJ
©Michele L. Catanese
All artwork ©Rev. William Hart McNichols
The icon and the drawing are the work of Rev. William Hart McNichols. The icon is called St. Robert Southwell and the Burning Babe.
The drawing is found in a book called The Fifteen Mysteries in Image and Word by M. Basil Pennington, O.S.C.O., illustrated by William Hart McNichols, 1993.