What Child is This?

How well do you know this beautiful hymn, set to an English melody from the 16th century?

Having prayed the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary during my high school and college years, I was privileged to become familiar with the full text, which is so beautiful.  (It was used as the hymn every Thursday evening.)

There are references in this text, written 150 years ago, that I find touching.  Their poignancy seems a fitting match for the almost-haunting melody of Greensleeves, to which they are now set.

This seemingly simple Christmas carol, What Child is This?, has a way of combining some important aspects of our faith all in one place.

This evening, we again sang this hymn at vespers.  This was my second time today of hearing it, since this morning we sang and learned about several familiar carols at the Bible Study I lead for our residents.

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Crib set in St. Anne’s Chapel

I would encourage you to read over the full text thoughtfully, taking time to let it touch your heart as well.

 

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

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