Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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GERMAN CATHOLIC POETRY
was that of the Divine Birth in the soul of the believer; according to Eclchart the soul comes into immediate union with God by " bringing forth the Son" within itself; the historic Christ is the symbol of the divine humanity to which the soul should rise : " when the soul bringeth forth the Son," he says, " it is happier than Mary.", Several Christmas sermons by Eclchart have been preserved ; one of them ends with the prayer, " To this Birth may that God, who to-day is new born as man, bring us, that we, poor children of earth, may be born in | Him as God ; to this may He bring us eternally ! Amen." l8 With this profound doctrine of the Divine Birth, it was natural that the German mystics should enter deeply into the festival of Christmas, and one of the earliest of German Christmas carols, " Es Icomt ein schif geladen," is the work of Eckhart's disciple, John Tauler (d. 1361). It is perhaps an adaptation of a secular song :
" A ship comes sailing onwards
With a precious freight on board ; It bears the only Son of God, It bears the Eternal Word."
The doctrine of the mystics, " Die in order to live," fills the last verses :
" Whoe'er would hope in gladness To kiss this Holy Child, Must suffer many a pain and woe, Patient like Him and mild ;
Must die with Him to evil
And rise to righteousness, That so with Christ he too may share
Eternal life and bliss." x9
To the fourteenth century may perhaps belong an allegorical carol still sung in both Catholic and Protestant Germany :
" Es ist ein Ros entsprungen Aus einer Wurzel zart,
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