A poem for this, the first Monday of Advent.
Henry Vaughan’s sonnet is an echo of Song of Solomon 2:11-12: “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” These verses hold special meaning for me and my family. They remind me of my own baby’s birth, but they speak of Mary’s child, too.
Advent is a season of contradiction. A high King and a lowly manger. A victorious Savior and a vulnerable infant. The brilliance of stars and the stench of a stable. Here, in Vaughan’s words, is another: “… here in dust and dirt, O here / The lilies of his love appear!”
We are creatures of dust, and we live out our lives on a crust of dirt. But would we wish it otherwise? For Love came down, and this dirt-filled world has never been the same.
So, plant your feet on solid earth. Feel the tremors of what has been and all that is to come.
Can you feel them?
The time for singing has come.
Unfold, unfold! Take in his light,
Who makes thy cares more short than night.
The joys, which with his day-star rise,
He deals to all but drowsy eyes:
And what the men of this world miss,
Some drops and dews of future bliss.
Hark how his winds have changed their note,
And with warm whispers call thee out.
The frosts are past, the storms are gone,
And backward life at last comes on.
The lofty groves in express joys
Reply unto the turtle’s voice,
And here in dust and dirt, O here
The lilies of his love appear!
– Henry Vaughan (1622-95)