I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:54–57
Hymn for Christmas
Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (345–≈413)
Having now reached the end of its track
the sun begins its journey back.
This is the dawn of the year: the hours
of daytime will now increase, with the powers
of light and grace that attend the birth
of Christ, whom heaven gave to earth.
The planet, rejoicing, blushes, glad
so to be honored. O sweet lad,
child of a virgin and the Word,
that the angel brought, and Mary heard
the wisdom of ages attended you
from the day of your birth. You always knew
the order of all creation and
those things no mortal can understand—
how millennia passed and then
God deigned to show himself to men,
redeem us from sin and moral blindness,
and save us through His loving Kindness
from our idolatry and worse,
the guile of the devil and his curse
from the brink of the smoky pit, He snatched
us back. Our ruin, while He watched,
he could not suffer. He assumed
a mortal body, fragile, doomed.
to break death’s chains, He came, and to bring
mankind back to our God and King.
It was upon this very day
that God put on our mortal clay.
The noble virgin’s time is near,
and—joy to the world!—her Child is here
whose infant tears perfume our air,
as foul as privies everywhere,
to the sweetness of mountain spikenard.
The rough turns smooth and every hard
boulder is gentled, covered in moss.
All nature exults! And the least of us,
the simplest herdsman, prays, and his sheep
and cattle adore the baby, asleep
in the rude cradle. All the nations
throughout the world for generations
numberless will declare their love
and faith in Him—but the children of
Isaac and Abraham refuse.
Maddened by Furies perhaps, the Jews
are obstinate, deny each sign
and wonder. This child of David’s line
they shall one day confront on high
and then confess their error, cry
vain tears, as they hear the trumpet blare
for the end of days, for He will be there
judging each one according to
his proper deserts. And then, O Jew,
you shall be sensible of your loss,
and understand how, on that cross,
He suffered for us and there destroyed
mortality. From the awful void
of the tomb He saves us all, that black
abyss from which He brings us back.
—Hymns of Prudentius, ed. David R. Slavitt (Johns Hopkins University Press).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.