Romanos the Melodist: Poet Inspired by the Virgin Mary

Source: FSSPX News

Protection of the Holy Virgin. On the right, the Virgin is giving Melodius a parchment as he sleeps.

Romanos, born around 493 and died after 555, was a convert from Judaism, deacon of Beirut, then priest of the Church of Kuros in Byzantium.  He had popular roots, was a poet, and had a vivid imagination, a singing soul. In Romanos, the great Theotokos is humanized: the mother, the Virgin, the woman, the girl, everything is lovingly distinguished.

On the Nativity of Christ

Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being,
and the earth offers a cave to him whom no one can approach.
Angels with shepherds give glory,
and magi journey with a star,
for to us there has been born
   a little Child, God before the ages.

The mother’s Father has willingly become her Son,
the infants’ savior is laid as an infant in a manger.
As she who bore him contemplates him, she says,
“Tell me, my Child, how were you sown, or how were you planted in me?
I see you, my flesh and blood, and I am amazed,
because I give suck and yet I am not married.
And though I see you in swaddling clothes,
I know that the flower of my virginity is sealed,
for you preserved it when, in your good pleasure, you were born
   a little Child, God before the ages.

“High King, what have you to do with beggars?
Maker of heaven, why have you come to those born of earth?
Did you love a cave or take pleasure in a manger?
See, there is no place for your servant in the inn,
I do not say a place, not even a cave,
for that too belongs to another.
To Sara, when she bore a child,
a vast land was given as her lot. To me, not even a fox hole.
I used the cavern where willingly you made your dwelling,
   a little Child, God before the ages.

As she spoke such words in secret
and entreated the One who knows what is hidden,
she heard the magi seeking the babe.
At once, the Maiden cried to them, “Who are you?”
They answered her, “And you, who are you,
that you have borne such a Child?
Who is your father, who is she who bore you,
that you have become mother and nurse of a son without father?
On seeing his star we understood that there had appeared
   a little Child, God before the ages.

When Mary heard these amazing words,
she bowed low and worshipped the offspring of her womb
and with tears, she said, “Great, my Child,
great is all that you have done for me in my poverty;
for see, magi are outside seeking you.
The kings of the East seek your face,
and the rich among your people beg to see you,
for truly your people are those to whom you have been made known as
   a little Child, God before the ages.

Mary, Scripture says, said to the faithful magi,
“So, have you journeyed through all Jerusalem,
that city which slays prophets?
How did you pass unharmed through the city malevolent to all?
How did you avoid Herod,
who breathes out murder, not justice?”
But they answered her, “Virgin,
we did not avoid him, we mocked him.
We met them all and asked where there had been born
   a little Child, God before the ages.”

When they had told all their story,
the magi took the gifts in their hands and worshipped
the Gift of gifts, the Myrrh of myrrh.
They brought Christ gold and myrrh and then incense
and cried, “Accept our triple gift,
as you do the Thrice Holy Hymn of the seraphim.
Do not reject them like those of Cain,
but embrace them like Abel’s offering,
through her who gave you birth, and through whom you have been born for us,
   a little Child, God before the ages.”

When the blameless Virgin saw the magi bringing
new and radiant gifts and worshipping,
the star showing him, the shepherds praising him,
she implored the Maker and Creator of all these, saying,
“Accept, my Child, a trinity of gifts,
grant her who gave you birth three requests.
I pray to you for the seasons
and for the fruits of the earth and for those who dwell on it.
Be reconciled to all, because through me you have been born
   a little Child, God before the ages.

“For I am not simply your mother, compassionate Saviour;
it is not in vain that I suckle the giver of milk,
but for the sake of all I implore you.
You have made me the mouth and the boast of all my race,
and your world has me
as a mighty protection, a wall and a buttress.
They look to me, those who were cast out
of the Paradise of pleasure, for I bring them back.
May all things understand that, through me, you have been born
   a little Child, God before the ages.