A Hymn for Epiphany

All you who look for Christ to come,
Lift up your eyes to heaven above;
There you will see the glorious sign
Of His eternal majesty.

A star that, in its brilliant light,
Outshines the dazzling orb of day
Proclaims that God in human flesh
Has come to dwell with men on earth.

No thrall is this of night’s domain,
Nor satellite of monthly moon,
But sole possessor of the sky,
It rules the shining course of day.

Although the frigid polar stars
That in their circuit backward wheel
Refuse to set, yet veiled by clouds,
They oft are hidden from our gaze.

This is an everlasting star
That never sinks beneath the waves;
No cloud that drifts across its face
Has power to hide its beaming light.

Let baleful comets not withdraw,
And meteors lit from Sirius’s flame,
Confounded by the star of God,
Fall blazing from the heavens above.

Lo, from the heart of Persian lands,
The gateway of the rising sun,
The Magi skilled in astral lore
Behold the star of kingly rank.

As soon as it began to shine,
The other stars put out their lights,
And Lucifer then dare not show
The beauty of his radiant face.

‘Who is this King,’ the Magi cry,
‘Enthroned above the starry hosts,
Whom Heaven holds in reverent awe
And whom ethereal light obeys?

‘We now behold the glorious sign
Of one who never shall have end,
Most high, sublime, and limitless,
More ancient than the earth or sky.

‘He is the Gentiles’ King and Lord,
And Ruler of the Jewish race,
To Father Abraham decreed
And to his seed forevermore.

‘Forerunner of all men of faith,
Who willed to give his only son
In sacrifice, that sire foresaw
Descendants numerous as the stars.

‘Now blooms the flower of David’s race
From root of Jesse springing up,
And blossoming on the scepter’s rod,
It rules on high the universe.’

With eager gaze fixed on the sky,
The sages followed where the star
Had furrowed out a shining path
To guide their hastening steps aright.

But soon above the holy Child
The heavenly ensign took its stand,
And bending down, it cast its light
Upon the Infant’s sacred Head.

On seeing Him, these Seers bring forth
Their Easters stores, and as they bend
The knee in worship, offer Him
Incense and myrrh and kingly gold.

O Child, to whom Thy Father gave
A threefold dignity sublime,
See in these gifts the mystic signs
Of kingship and unending might.

The gold and Saba’s incense sweet
Proclaim Thee to be King and God;
The bitter dust of myrrh foretells
The tomb of Thy humanity.

This is that grave where God allowed
His mortal frame to rest awhile,
And raising it to life again,
Broke open Death’s dark prison doors.

O Bethlehem, of cities great
Thou are the greatest, for in thee
Salvation’s Author from on high,
Incarnate, saw the light of day.

You nurse the sole-begotten Heir
Of Him who reigns in Heaven above,
His Son made man by the Spirit’s power,
Yet very God in human flesh.

His Father’s will and testament,
By Prophets witnessed and endorsed,
Bids Him to enter His new realm
And take possession of His throne,

A kingdom that embraces all,
The firmament, the sea and earth
From rising to the setting sun,
The depths of Hell and Heaven above.

Alarmed, the impious tyrant hears
That now the King of Kings has come
To sit on David’s royal throne
And rule the race of Israel.

And maddened by the news, he cries,
‘This upstart comes to banish me:
Go warriors, unsheathe your swords,
And stain the infants’ cribs with blood.

‘Let all male children be destroyed;
Search out the bosom of each nurse,
And even at the mother’s breasts
Let blades be red with infant gore.

‘I trust no woman who has borne
A son in Bethlehem these days,
For all will strive to steal away
And hide their offspring from your sight.’

Then mad with rage, the torturer draws
His cruel sword and thrusts the blade
Into the tender infant forms,
Bereaving them of budding life.

The fiendish slayer scarce can find
On little frames sufficient space
To hold the deadly gaping wound:
The blade is wider than the throat.

O barbarous and inhuman sight!
A head is dashed against a stone
And milk-white brains are scattered round,
While at the blow the eyes leap forth.

Again, a trembling babe is plunged
Into a deep, swift-flowing stream,
And water mingling with its breath,
It gasps its fragile life away.

All hail, sweet flowers of martyrdom,
Cut down in life’s bright dawning hour,
And shattered by the foe of Christ
As rosebuds by the whirling storm.

First victims offered up to Christ,
A tender flock of spotless lambs,
Before God’s very altar throne,
With martyrs’ crowns and palms you play.

Of what avail such wickedness?
What joy in crime does Herod find?
Alone among so many slain,
Unharmed and safe, the Christ Child lives.

Amid the streams of blood that flowed
From tender babes of equal age,
Alone, the Virgin’s Son escaped
The sword that pierced the mothers’ hearts.

Thus Moses in a former age
Escaped proud Pharoah’s foolish law,
And as the savior of his race
Prefigured Christ who was to come.

A cruel edict had been passed
Forbidding Hebrew mothers all,
When sons were born to them, to rear
These virile pledges of their love.

Devoutly scornful of the king,
A zealous midwife found a way
To hide her charge and keep him safe
For future glory and renown.

And when the boy to manhood grew,
God chose him as His own high priest,
Through whose pure hands He might transmit
His law engraved on slabs of stone.

In this great man may we not see
A figure of our Savior, Christ?
By slaying the Egyptian lord,
That leader lifted Israel’s yoke;

But when beneath the yoke of sin
We bow in ceaseless servitude,
Our Captain wounds the enemy
And frees us from the shades of Death.

And Moses cheers with waters sweet
His people ransomed in the sea,
When led by him through cleansing floods
And guided by the pillar’s light.

While Israel’s hosts in battle join,
He overwhelms fierce Amalek
By lifting up his arms on high,
Prefiguring then the cross of Christ.

A truer prototype of Christ
Was Joshua, who led his tribes
With untold cost and sacrifice,
Victorious, to the promised lands.

Also, twelve stones from Jordan’s bed,
Left dry when waters backward flowed,
He raised and firmly set in place,
The type of Christ’s Apostles twelve.

Then rightly do the Magi hold
That they have seen Judea’s King,
For all the deeds of ancient chiefs
In figure told of Christ the Lord.

Of Judges who in olden times
Ruled Jacob’s race, He is the King;
King now of Holy Mother Church,
Of both the temples, new and old.

The sons of Ephraim worship Him,
With all Manasses’ holy house,
And tribes sprung from the brothers twelve
All honor Him as Lord and God.

Nay, even children of lost tribes,
Who followed false and shameful rites,
And all who shaped in fiery forge
The forms of Baal to adore,

Forsake their fathers’ gloomy gods
Of metal, wood, and senseless stone;
Leave idols, hewn and carved by man,
To worship Christ in spirit and truth.

Rejoice, all nations of the earth,
Judea, Egypt, Greece and Rome,
With Scythia, Thrace, and Persian realms:
Now over all one King holds sway.

Then praise your Lord, you that rejoice,
And all by desolation tried,
In health, affliction or decay:
For none shall taste eternal death.